Directed by Greg Berlanti
Starring Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Josh Lucas, Christina Hendricks, Sarah Burns, Faizon Love
Written by Ian Deitchman, Kristin Rusk Robinson
There is a lot going on here, in this romantic comedy. The start is somewhat natural, given that the two leads have a meet-cute that leads to 3 years of animosity. Still you can tell their dispute is somewhat realistically playful. Then, in a turn that can only happen in a movie like this, the two are brought together by law to raise the child of their deceased friends, who named them guardians. Much more is said of this than what I have seen in the past. The fact that their conclusion is so misguided is interesting to me, but more on that later.
So, back to the kid. By some will of the cinematic universe, two people who were not even apprised of their position are given custody of a child. After a walk around the house, they decide to go for it. They aren’t a couple, are not even friends, but here they are. They don’t have to pay for the house, but there are other bills. To the filmmaker’s credit, they include this into the reality of our couple, Holly Berenson (Heigl) and Eric Messer (Duhamel). Each have the kind of jobs that only people in movies could have, he a director of NBA game coverage and she the owner of a small bakery, but they don’t have endless amounts of money. Or time. This results in an incredible sequence featuring the always entertaining Faizon Love, as a Taxi driver friend that Messer tries to cajole into watching his kid while he works. That goes…not so well. But it is not as ridiculous as you’d think.
The neighbors offer many moments of mirth, through a swath of 3 couples. There is a variety of moments sprinkled throughout the film that don’t feel forced at all. This is equally due to the script and the actors, in particular, Andy Daly, who plays a husband that expresses some awfully clear messages with a smile on his never cracking facade.
Heigl has been searching for the perfect vehicle to match her unique comic / dramatic talents, and she almost has it here. She displays a lot of complex emotions with most of her characters. It’s too bad the scriptwriting rarely matches her desire. Someday, when she finds her own Penny Marshall, Amy Heckerling, or Martin Scorcese, she is going to knock one out of the park. I consider this an infield single.
Duhamel, can make chicken salad, if you know what I mean. His affable style and plenitude of facial expressions will keep him in business for many years. He could stand some stronger material, and I would love to have seen what would have happened if they’d made him the son of Indiana Jones. No offense to LaBeouf, but Duhamel has a better bag of tricks.
As for Berlanti, I don’t know much about him. I know he writes a lot, and there is proof there because there are plenty of good lines in the film. The film really breaks down into a series of clichés in the last quarter. I really did not want to be able to tick off the events one by one as they happened, and Lord knows my wife doesn’t want me doing that.
A few years ago there was a movie called The Break Up. The movie was unremarkable except for one thing. After going through many of the fights that this and so many other romantic comedies do, they broke up. They spent, like Life As We Know It, the last 20 minutes of the film hinting that this would not stay the case. But it did not happen. It was a stroke of brilliance. They stayed broken up. So I guess I can’t say I would like to have that happen just once. There was a perfectly good doctor left out in the cold here.
(*** out of *****)