"Why am I watching this on the big screen instead of on TV?" That's the question I kept asking myself while watching the new Katherine Heigl comedy "Life as We Know It." It's a question I've been asking myself a lot lately at the movies.
The answer, of course, is that sitcoms long ago gave up television as their primary province. What once was designed for the small screen is now inflated (only slightly) for the big screen. For a bottom-line movie industry loath to risk alienating audiences with something new, a big-screen sitcom is the perfect insurance policy. And if it's crammed with TV-friendly stars, so much the better.
Heigl, after a stint on "Grey's Anatomy," is by now a bona fide movie draw; Josh Duhamel, her costar in "Life as We Know It," is best known for the TV show "Las Vegas." His easygoing OK-ness here will probably make him a movie star, too. It doesn't take much these days.
Heigl plays Holly, a singleton and professional foodie who, in a pre-credit sequence, endures a very bad blind date with basketball telecaster Eric (Duhamel), who, appropriately, goes only by his last name, Messer. He's the kind of guy who is busy lining up a new hookup while still on the old one.
Cut ahead three years. When their mutual best friends (played by Christina Hendricks and Hayes MacArthur) are wiped out in a car accident, the raising of their baby daughter, Sophie (played by a trio of infants), as per the couple's will, falls to the two nonlovebirds – who had no inkling of their guardian status. To make matters worse, they must live together in their friends' Atlanta home, although the mortgage, thoughtfully, has already been taken care of.
A more contrived and tenuous premise you would be hard-pressed to find, although, since this is a romantic comedy, suspension of disbelief comes with the territory.
I would have had a better time suspending my disbelief, however, if I didn't feel quite so manipulated by the territory. Or if, better yet, the payoff to all this contrivance was something jollier than a few mild chuckles and an overdose of moments when the director, Greg Berlanti, overdosing on babykins ballyhoo, encourages us to go "Awwww."
One of the oddities of Heigl's movies, which also include "Knocked Up" and "27 Dresses," is that she always seems distinctly overqualified for her role as mopey singleton. She's supposed to be lovelorn and manless and yet she's made up to look like Grace Kelly. She's a knockout who thinks she's a wallflower, and I suppose this is the essence of her appeal.
Sandra Bullock, by contrast, is, or was, more like the girl next door. After "The Blind Side," she's more like the diva next door. Jennifer Aniston is probably a closer equivalent to Heigl, although she doesn't have Heigl's mild aura of retro glamour.
In any case, the point this movie is ultimately trying to make is that it doesn't matter what you look like when you're changing diapers. Babies are equal-opportunity splatterers. "Life as We Know It" is as disposable as one of those diapers. Grade: C+ (Rated PG-13 for sexual material, language, and some drug content.)
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