Life as We Know It
Directed By: Greg Berlanti
Starring: Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel,Josh Lucas, Christina Hendricks, Hayes MacArthur, Sarah Burns, Rob Huebel, Bill Brochtup, Andrew Daly, Melissa McCarthy, Will Sasso, Jessica St. Clair, Alexis Clagett, Brynn Clagett, Brooke Clagett
Film Length: 115 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.4:1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Release Date: February 8, 2010
The Film **
Life as We Know It is a romantic comedy centering around the mis-matched couple of Holly Berenson (Heigl) and Eric Messer (Duhamel). Uptight Holly and laid back Eric (who prefers to be called "Messer") have little in common other than the fact that their best friends Alison (Hendricks) and Peter (MacArthur) made them godparents to their daughter, Sophie (The Clagett triplets). Fate and a Last Will and Testament bring them together when Alison and Peter are killed in a traffic accident, leaving their infant daughter orphaned. Messer and Holly, who can normally not even ask each other the time without it devolving into an argument, find that they have been named as Sophie's legal guardians. Out of respect for their deceased friends and love for Sophie, Holly and Messer decide to try to raise the child together in her parents' home. They find themselves challenged not just by their normally fractious relationship, but by all of the stresses, sacrifices, and uncertainties that come with raising a baby.
Based solely on the plot description above, any viewer who has seen more than two romantic comedies in their lifetime will be able to figure out how this film will play out. Since the film offers little in the way of surprises, its success or failure rests largely on how enjoyable the plot and character "journey to the inevitable" is for a viewer. Unfortunately, the film's somewhat awkward blending of heavy drama (the deaths that set the plot in motion loom over the entire picture), opposites attract romantic comedy, and sitcommish infant jokes (they go to the poop gag well quite a few times) never quite gels.
The cast certainly puts a lot of effort into trying to make it work, witht Heigl and Duhamel offering appropriately restrained lead performances that prevent their characters from devolving into the uptight control freak and unrepentant lothario stereotypes that they could easily have become. Melissa McCarthy, as a friend who makes her husband do all of the parental heavy lifting so she has more time to offer unsolicited advice to others, adopts a southern accent that is possibly even more grating than it was intended to be, but to her credit, she absolutely nails the punchline to one of the funnier jokes in the film (and yes, it involves poop). Josh Lucas assumes the thankless "Ralph Bellamy" role of the rival suitor for Holly. As was frequently the case with Bellamy, his character is not saddled with any obvious character defects or ulterior motives, which makes Heigl's choice less obvious, and her reasoning only explained by the movie logic of romantic comedies.
Ultimately, the efforts of the cast are not enough to overcome the "neither fish nor fowl" structure of the movie, which frequently stalls when trying to shift gears between scenes of heavy drama and moments of broad domestic comedy. The sitcommish nature of a lot of the humor surrounding the baby is underlined by an annoying tendency to insert a pop song every 6 minutes or so, frequently accompanied by a montage. As I was watching, I kept thinking that these sequences were analogous to commercial breaks.
The Video ***
The video comes courtesy of an AVC encoded 1080p presentation letterboxed to the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1. The overall presentation was disappointing, but I cannot tell whether it was due to the way it was brought to home video or simply the way it was shot. There is a strange orangeish cast to much of the film that makes most of the characters appear to be applying liberal amounts of skin bronzer to their faces. The film also has a surprisingly soft and grainy texture to it for a modern production that does not lend itself well to the material, especially when considered in context with the unnatural colors.
The Audio ****
Audio comes courtesy of a DTS HD-MA lossless 5.1 track. While romantic comedies are rarely showcases for creative use of surround sound audio, the mix for Life as We Know It is a bit above average in that context. Most of the film's audio remains focused in the front hemisphere of the surround field, but the surrounds are used subtly to create a low-level ambience in scenes where it is appropriate with noticeable discrete stereo effects. Fidelity is quite good as one would expect from a DTS-HD MA presentation of a modern sound mix for a big studio picture, with the many pop songs included in the soundtrack being the prime beneficiaries of the lossless encoding. Alternate language dubs are available in Dolby Digital 5.1 in Spanish, French, and Portuguese.
The Extras **½
When the disc is first played, the viewer is greeted with the following two skippable promos in 1080p high definition with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound:
- Warner Blu-ray promo (1:53 - AVC Codec)
- WB Insider Rewards Promo (1:18 - VC-1 Codec)
Proper extras are accessible from the disc main menu under the "Special Features" heading. They are presented in AVC encoded 1080p video with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound.
A Survival Guide to Instant Parenting (7:12) is an odd featurette in which actors discuss parenting views and advice from the perspectives of their characters with additional input from a producer and director. Talking head interview segments are mixed with clips from the film. On-camera comments are provided by Bill Brochtup ("Gary"), Producer Barry Josephson, Melissa McCarthy ("DeeDee"), Andrew Daly ("Scott"), Jessica St. Clair ("Beth"), Will Sasso ("Josh"), Rob Huebel ("Ted"), Josh Duhamel ("Messer"), Director Greg Berlanti.
Katherine Heigl: Becoming the Best Mom Ever (5:56) is a featurette focusing on Heigl and her character with all participants who are not Heigl offering profuse praise for her talents and star quality. Heigl refrains from tooting her own horn like the rest of the participants. Instead, she discusses her perspective on the film and her experience making it which was coincident with her becoming a new Mom in real life. On-camera comments are provided by Katherine Heigl (Holly), Josephson, Producer Paul Brooks, Berlanti, Josh Lucas ("Sam"), and Mother of the Clagett Triplets Erin Clagett.
Josh Duhamel: The Triplet Tamer (5:16) is a featurette focusing on the film's leading man and his interactions with the Clagett triplets who play Sophie. It consists of movie clips, on-set behind the scenes footage, and talking head interview segments. Topics covered include Duhamel's affinity for children in general and the bond that developed between him and the triplets. On-camera comments are provided by Duhamel, Berlanti, and Erin Clagett.
Deleted Scenes (14:42) is a roll of outtakes from the film with no chapter stops or ability to view scemes separately. Many of the scenes appear to have been deleted for reasons of tone as they either make certain characters appear to be too cliche and/or unsympathetic, or they oversell points already made elsewhere in the film. The scenes included are listed below:
- Three extended scenes from a children's party that set-up and pay-off a nose picking gag
- Two scenes detailing a dilemma Holly and Messer encounter when first bringing Holly home
- A scene between Holly and her mother (played by Jean Smart) where she tells her that she will not be staying on to help her raise Sophie
- Holly has a discussion with another mother outside the pediatrician's office while struggling with folding a stroller
- Three scenes involving Messer bringing a one-night stand home to the house and Holly forcing him to watch Sophie while she runs to the store
- A montage set to music of Holly and Messer shopping for clothes for Sophie
- A dramatic scene between Holly and Messer at the hospital where they "make peace" and have a sobering discussion about why they were chosen to raise Sophie
- An extended montage of Messer and Holly looking for Sophie while their social worker waits outside
- Holly and her employee discuss her relationship with Messer and the likelihod that it will end badly
- Messer has an extended discussion about parenting with Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash (who plays himself)
- A montage of Holly and Messer's neighbors and friends offering birthday greetings to Sophie and reflections on parenting that appear to be largely improvised. It is payed off with a throwback to the nose-picking gag from the first set of deleted scenes.
SD DVD & Digital Copy - As is the case with all recent Warner BDs of theatrical new release titles, a separate disc is included with an SD DVD of the film and a digital copy. The DVD presentation is bare bones with the film in 16:9 enhanced widescreen video, English Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, and available English SDH, French, or Spanish subtitles. It has no extras but does have a chapter menu. Given the limitations of the underlying high definition master, the standard definition presentation is less of a step-down in quality than is usually the case.
The digital copy is on-disc, and is compatible with either iTunes or Windows Media formats. It is unlocked through the use of a one-time password provided on a paper insert to the disc case.
The disc is enclosed in a standard Blu-ray case with an extra hub on the inner left side allowing it to accommodate the SD DVD/digital copy disc as well as the BD of the film. The only insert is a sheet with the code to unlock the iTunes or Windows Media digital copy. The hard case is in turn enclosed in a slip cover that reproduces most of the same artwork with some additional copy promoting the SD DVD and digital copy.
Life as We Know It is a predictable romantic comedy focusing on the efforts of a mis-matched couple trying to raise the infant daughter of their two best friends who died in a car accident. The film has some tone issues as it awkwardly shifts between heavy drama involving grief and loss, conventional opposites attract romantic comedy, and sitcommish humor surrounding domestic issues inherent to raising a young child (mostly poop). It is presented on BD with an unappealing AVC encoded 1080p video presentation that could be an artifact of how the film is intended to look. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio will not blow the roof off of anyone's home theater, but it is a better than average mix for a dialog driven romantic comedy and features the expected excellent fidelity for a lossless presentation of a modern studio film. Extras are top-lined by some amusing deleted scenes. Three featurettes that seem more promotional than informative are also included along with a separate SD DVD and digital copy disc.