A 70-mile-wide asteroid is en route to Earth, and the last best attempt to counter it has failed. Also failing is the marriage of soft-spoken insurance salesman Dodge (Golden Globe Award winner Steve Carell); the breaking news that the world will end in an estimated 21 days cues his wife to leave him on the spot.
Dodge is a man who has always played by the rules of life, while his neighbor Penny (Academy Award nominee Keira Knightley) is an extroverted woman who hasn't. From these opposite perspectives, both initially choose to navigate the impending end of the world with blinders on. Dodge declines joining his friends in increasingly reckless behavior, while Penny fixates on her relationship issues with a self-absorbed musician.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World begins with the end; Dodge (Steve Carell in his first real post-"The Office" role) and his wife sit in a car listening to a radio report about a seventy-mile-wide asteroid that is heading for Earth, destined to wipe out all life when it hits in three weeks. Dodge's wife calmly gets out of the car and, without a word, runs away. Dodge tries to go about his life as an insurance salesman, but the people around him are either rioting or partying, acting without consideration for the consequences of their actions. When Dodge overhears Penny (Keira Knightley from The Pirates of the Caribbean movies), his downstairs neighbor, crying on his fire escape, he befriends her and the two make a plan to fulfill their final wishes - his, to be reunited with his one true love and hers, to see her family in England one last time. The pair sets off on their adventure, but the people they meet on their quest are all either committing suicide, doing drugs and having sex, or preparing for the post-apocalyptic world in case they survive. Along the way, Dodge and Penny grow closer to each other and their priorities shift as the couple comes face to face with their own mortality.
For all of the end-of-the-world hype surrounding the Mayan calendar and the movies that have come along with it, it's surprising that a comedic look at the subject like Seeking a Friend for the End of the World didn't get made earlier. Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria (who wrote Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist), the film is an interesting take on the Armageddon movie, focusing on just two individuals as they make their way through the pre-apocalyptic world. It walks the line between comedy and drama, but doesn't do either incredibly well. The plot never drags or gets boring, but it's not anything particularly memorable, either, and it will most likely get lost in the fray and be overshadowed by all of the other summer movies.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is, primarily, a journey movie. For basically the whole movie, Dodge and Penny (and a cute dog that they call Sorry - named from the one-word note with which he was found) travel through the land to get to their destination, and the plot takes them in and out of other characters' stories. Over the course of their travels, they encounter a bar and grill that is still open, being run by the drugged out and oversexed employees who have nothing else to do. They come across a militaristic group that is stockpiling weapons and supplies for the aftermath of the disaster, optimistic that they will survive and will have to repopulate the Earth. They stumble upon an idyllic scene with an eclectic group on a beach that seems to be at peace with the situation in an almost religious way. All of these situations have little to do with Dodge and Penny, but serve to illustrate the different ways that people deal with impending doom. These living stages of grief illustrations are somewhat interesting, but the characters in them fly out of the film just as quickly as they flew in, and their stories are never revisited. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is the tale of Dodge and Penny going from point A to point B and, unfortunately for the film, neither the characters nor their journey is interesting enough to carry the weight. The movie isn't dreadful, but it's not anything special either. It's just there.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
is a cute little movie, but it cannot rightly be classified as a comedy. Sure, it has a few humorous snippets, but nothing that really tickles the funny bone. And it's a shame, too; Steve Carell is one of the funniest men of his generation, and Keira Knightley is much more effective as Penny than she was in her last movie role, Sabina in A Dangerous Method
. The pair has a great chemistry, which is good because they share a ton of screen time, but their back and forth banter does not feel natural enough to be amusing. Where Carell's funnier films, like The 40 Year Old Virgin
, have an air of improvisation and found hilarity, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
feels too highly scripted, overly controlled and lacking in spontaneity to generate any real laughs.
June 22, 2012