'Life As We Know It' (PG-13)

Sometimes I suspect there is secret high-stakes contest in Hollywood among filmmakers to try and come up with a movie without a single original idea. If so, Life As We Know It is a contender (although it’s going to get stiff competition from The Back-Up Plan, which terrorized moviegoers earlier this year).

The story line goes something like this: A couple sets up her friend Holly (Katherine Heigl) with his friend Messer (Josh Duhamel) on a date that goes disastrously wrong. He’s a slob and a womanizer; she’s a prissy control freak. Imagine.

Then the couple is killed in a car accident, and custody of their year-old daughter Sophie goes to these two unlikely caretakers, who don’t even like each other! The worst tragedy of this set-up is that the dead mom is Christina Hendricks of Mad Men, who’s infinitely more interesting than Heigl, who reprises her shrill, I-can’t-get-a man persona that is fast becoming unbearable. (Yes, 27 Dresses was a lot of girly fun, but see The Ugly Truth for more evidence of this claim.)

Duhamel acquits himself better here than he did in the excruciating When in Rome, but no matter how appealing he looks in his jogging shorts, he’s still just doing the same old thing. The baby is cute, of course, but the plot is as formulaic as what’s in her bottle. Little Sophie (played by a set of triplets) cries all night and spits up on everyone. Messer worries about commitment issues and keeping his booty-call lifestyle alive. Holly pretends to be disgusted by him and meets a thoughtful, well-groomed doctor (Josh Lucas), who in real life would end this hoax of a romance immediately. (What new single mom gives up a pediatrician?) A social worker shows up at inopportune times – say, after a batch of brownies laced with marijuana has been baked.

There is even that most unholy cliche, a race to the airport during which Holly hopes to unburden herself of her true feelings. Not even a bite of those pot brownies could make that scene palatable or make us believe Life As We Know It is anything more than Hollywood business as usual.

Cast: Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Josh Lucas, Christina Hendricks.

Director: Greg Berlanti.

Screenwriters: Ian Deitchman, Kristin Rusk Robinson.

Producers: Paul Brooks, Barry Josephson.

A Warner Bros. release. Running time: 112 minutes. Sexual material, language, drug content. Playing at area theaters.