'Life as We Know It': Approaching adulthood with baby steps

Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel play oddly matched people brought together byan orphaned infant.

A glop of rom-com pabulum, Life as We Know It stars Katherine Heigl as Holly, tightly wound Atlanta chef, and Josh Duhamel as Messer, loosey-goosey sports producer.

Fixed up by their respective best friends, they abort their blind date three minutes in. Three years later, when they are named foster parents to Sophie, said friends' orphaned infant, Holly and Messer take baby steps toward adulthood.

With pratfalls and teardrops, the film swings from sitcom to sit-dram. Will two singles who hate hate hate each other lovingly coparent a child? Will Sophie make Holly more forgiving and Messer more responsible? Will this movie be another slice of Heigl processed cheese?

The film from Greg Berlanti (TV's Brothers & Sisters) strains to appeal equally to girlie women and manly boys by making its leads the extreme examples of each type.

Heigl has wonderfully offbeat timing, but is typecasting herself by repeatedly playing the Type A personality with man trouble (see: Knocked Up, 27 Dresses, The Ugly Truth).

Duhamel, whose shambling manner recalls that of Shaggy in the Scooby-Doo cartoons, is a pleasant surprise. Unlike Heigl, he handles the demands of slapstick comedy and sobbing drama without appearing to suffer from mood swings.

The same cannot be said of the script by Ian Deitchman and Kristin Rusk Robinson, simultaneously edgy and mushy. The film's abrupt shifts of sentiment blunt its edge and make lumpy its mush.

As a social worker paying home visits, Sarah Burns is quite droll. Likewise Melissa McCarthy as a neighbor with a devoted husband and a crush on Messer.

Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/flickgrrl/.

Life As We Know It

Directed by Gary Berlanti. With Josh Lucas, Josh Duhamel, Katherine Heigl. Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.

Parent's guide: Unrated ().