the End of the World
- Rated R
- Buy the BD
All photos © Focus Features
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
here have been quite a few movies about the end of the world released over the last year, which means that either people are more miserable than I realized, or they know something that I don’t. Of course, the problem with basing a story around such a bleak topic is that it’s depressing – something that “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” tries to avoid by injecting some humor into the proceedings. But even though it fancies itself a romantic comedy of sorts (albeit one with a dark and not so chewy center), there’s nothing very funny about the apocalypse, and as a result, “Seeking a Friend” is never able to become the movie it wants to be.
Steve Carell stars as Dodge, a happily married insurance salesman who, despite his name, seems unable to avoid bad things happening to him. When it’s confirmed over the radio that the giant asteroid hurtling towards Earth can’t be redirected by NASA (or heroically blown to bits by Bruce Willis and a ragtag team of oil drillers), Dodge’s wife runs away, leaving him to live out his final days alone. After he meets cute with a fellow apartment tenant named Penny (Keira Knightley) just as the city is on the brink of major riots, however, the pair strikes a deal: If she drives Dodge across the country to reunite with his high school sweetheart, he’ll help Penny get back to England to see her family one last time.
It’s certainly an interesting premise, but one that fails to fulfill its potential due to the constantly shifting tone. Writer/director Loren Scafaria (who also wrote the underrated 2008 rom-com “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”) likely envisioned the movie as a pitch black comedy, but while there are a few good laughs scattered throughout, it never really works on that level, particularly when the budding relationship between Dodge and Penny demands that the material be taken more seriously. But Scafaria wants the best of both worlds by trying to be funny and poignant, and the film ultimately suffers as a result. It's also incredibly difficult to invest in any of the characters when you’re told upfront that they’re going to die. An argument could be made that Dodge and Penny’s emotional journey is engaging enough on its own despite their inevitable fates, but it still seems rather pointless, much like Lars von Trier’s overly pretentious “Melancholia.”
Though the idea of pairing Steve Carell with Keira Knightley must feel like the end of the world to some people, the two work surprisingly well together. It's definitely a welcome change of pace for Knightley from the stuffy period pieces that audiences are used to seeing her in, and as you'd expect, she brings some much-needed emotional weight to the role of Penny. The movie's loose and nomadic format also allows for a number of other great actors to stop by for a scene or two (Adam Brody and Martin Sheen are the clear standouts), but there's no question that this is Carell and Knightley's movie. It's just too bad that the end product is so unbalanced, because "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" had more than enough talent to suggest it would be better than this.
Two-Disc Blu-ray Review:
Universal's Blu-ray release offers up a mixed bag of extras. The audio commentary featuring writer/director Lorene Scafaria, her mother Gail, and producer Joy Gorman is made livlier and more entertaining thanks to the presence of co-stars Adam Brody and Patton Oswalt, while the included outtakes are only somewhat amusing. The rest of the bonus material is pure fluff, but you do get a DVD and UltraViolet digital copy of the film.