August 13, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

After their mutual best friends die in a car accident, two perpetual singletons (Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel) — who once went on a blind date from hell — are drafted to raise the couple’s orphaned infant daughter and live together in their friends’ Atlanta house. As a result, the mismatched pair slowly begin to reevaluate their feelings for each other — with some laughs along the way.

Knocked Up and 27 Dresses already proved that Heigl can shine in romantic comedies, but the charismatic performance of former Las Vegas star Duhamel may be the film’s biggest surprise. ”Everybody walks out saying, ‘We know Katie is a star, but we’ve never seen Josh in this way,”’ says director Greg Berlanti, creator of TV’s Everwood and Eli Stone and one of the writers behind next summer’s Green Lantern. ”He’s kind of a throwback — he’s really big and macho, but he can also play the emotion.”

For his part, Duhamel was thrilled at the chance to both flex his acting muscles and show off his parenting skills. ”Part of the reason I wanted to do the movie is because I’ve always had an affinity for kids, and they’ve always felt comfortable around me,” says the actor, who’s currently filming Michael Bay’s Transformers 3. ”This came a little bit more naturally than shooting giant alien robots.” In order to properly bond with his onscreen daughter (played by identical triplets), Duhamel spent three weeks hangin’ with the youngsters prior to production. ”They had just learned how to walk, so they were like these cute little ducklings,” he says. ”I got really close with them. By the end of the movie, we were best friends.” All together now: Awwww.

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