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Life as We Know It

How do you defend the indefensible? I know, thinking from the movie critic part of my brain, that Life as We Know It is a bad movie and other critics will scoff at its trite, ridiculous, formulaic story, but there’s something about it that drew me in. I’m aware of its faults—it’s a sloppy movie from top to bottom (including one very noticeable blurry shot that is downright inexcusable for a major motion picture)—but I liked it. Although I never want to see it again, it’s a major step up from the onslaught of other 2010 romantic comedy dreck.

The story begins in 2007 and Holly (Katherine Heigl) is about to head out on a blind date with Eric Messer (Josh Duhamel). Both are friends with Alison (Christina Hendricks) and Peter Novak (Hayes MacArthur) and were set up to meet each other. However, from the moment their eyes meet, they hate each other. In fact, they don’t even get to the restaurant before calling it a night. Holly then angrily tells Alison that the only way she can make it up to her is if she promises she’ll never have to see Eric again. So naturally, they cross paths again. As the montage during the opening credits shows, they run into each other many, many more times at events thrown by the Novaks, but after tragedy strikes and the Novaks pass away, Holly and Eric are forced to bond because they are left with their one year old child, together named the guardians of little Sophie (Brooke Clagett) despite not being a couple.

Life as We Know It is manipulative and the filmmakers know it. It takes an easy emotional target (killing off two beloved friends) and then ups the ante by tossing in a now orphaned child. That’s one contribution to its inevitable critical hatred. Another is the predictable story where it’s obvious that by the end (spoilers!) the two leads will fall for each other and live happily ever after, raising the kid as if it was their own.

To toss another cliché into the fire, before that final resolution, there’s even an airport chase scene where one character rushes through the terminals to stop the other from leaving. Because of these factors, I understand why people will hate it, but the movie going experience is just as much about emotion as it is the technical aspects and only the coldest of souls (and the not so easily fooled film critics) won’t have their heartstrings pulled. I pitied Holly and Eric as their lives were turned upside down, having not only lost their best friends, but also dumped with the important responsibility of raising their child, a task neither of them were prepared for.

It’s an unlikely real life scenario, but not unheard of and the two leads do a fantastic job of showing the hurt and pain they’re going through with the uncertainty and reluctance of raising a kid. Heigl, who has appeared in nothing but trash since Knocked Up (like 27 Dresses, Killers and The Ugly Truth, all equally awful), redeems herself here, even if only slightly. An early emotional breakdown shows that she isn’t all looks. She actually has some talent somewhere behind that pretty face and Duhamel, a wonderfully charming and handsome man if there ever was one, perfectly complements her.

You may see where the story is heading from the start, but it feels believable and that’s what matters. It’s even pretty funny, with some sly references to Slumdog Millionaire and Speed, and it features a supporting cast full of faces you’ll recognize, but won't be able to put a name to.

I don’t want to come off as a defender of this film because, from its messy direction to its been-there-done-that script, it’s pretty bad. But sometimes emotions trump those technical aspects. While not overwhelming, there was something in Life as We Know It that got the best of me.

Life as We Know It receives 3/5



We’re nearly halfway through 2010 and when this time rolls around I like to reminisce back on my time at the movies and pick out what I think are some of the best and worst so far. If this first half of the year is characteristic of the second, romantic comedies will adorn most of my worst of the year list. The Back-Up Plan, The Bounty Hunter, Leap Year, all deserve a spot on that not-so-coveted list. Now you can add Killers to it, a movie so bad it manages to screw up three different genres in one fell swoop. Part romance, part action and part comedy, this thing is neither romantic, exciting nor funny. Killers fails on every conceivable level.

Katherine Heigl plays Jen, a recently single woman who is on vacation with her parents to Nice, France. There she meets a muscular, handsome fellow named Spencer, played by Ashton Kutcher. Little does she know, he’s actually a killer spy on a mission. However, he falls in love with her so hard he pulls himself out of the game and marries her. Three years later they live in a neighborhood where cops evidently don’t exist and everybody is a contract killer. You see, a 20 million dollar bounty has just been put on his head and his neighbors are coming out of the woodworks packing heat. Who is friend and who is foe? Revealing all of his secrets to Jen, he must figure out what is going on and who is behind it all.

Let’s just put this out on the table. Ashton Kutcher is one of the least convincing killer spies in the history of cinema. He couldn’t pull this role off if he had taken acting lessons from Humphrey Bogart. Taking cues from the Bond films, he tries to play the suave, sexy type, but his looks are too boyish to work. Instead of coming off as charming and sophisticated, it feels more like he should be lining the pages of Calvin Klein underwear magazine ads.

The fact of the matter is that Kutcher is an offensively bland actor. Outside of the recent Valentine’s Day where he, surprisingly enough, charmed me, he seems out of his element unless acting out lunacy. He belongs in things like Dude, Where’s My Car? and the tough guy technique he tries to put on in this thing is laughable.

Which is more than you can say for the rest of the movie, which elicits a grand total of one laugh, and even then you can argue the validity of it. Was it actually funny or was I so desperate for a chuckle by the end that I couldn’t help but crack up? It’s tough to say.

Then you have the embarrassing action scenes that utilize that damned shaky cam technique to make everything look more hectic than it really is, most likely due to the inability of the cast to simulate an actual fight.

I suppose the one saving grace of Killers is that the characters aren’t deplorable. Compared to their roles in movies like What Happens in Vegas and The Ugly Truth, Kutcher and Heigl play relatively likable people who want to live normal lives, but are forced into a mysterious game of life and death, though likable may not be the best adjective. Tolerable, maybe. Whatever you want to call them, they’re nevertheless wrapped in an inane plot and forced to spit out some of the lamest, most harebrained jokes this side of Did You Hear About the Morgans?

Lots of people wanted to kill Kutcher in this film and you’ll see plenty of bullets fly at the screen. Don’t be surprised if you start to wish one of those bullets would break through and put you out of your misery.

Killers receives 0.5/5