Rewind, Review, and Re-Rate: ‘Seeking a Friend for the End of the World’: A Timely Title

July 24, 2020 Updated: July 24, 2020

It’s now the year 2020. We’ve all had enough of the COVID. It’s probably safe to say we’re all looking for a friend for the end of the world, in some way, shape, or form.

“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” came out in 2012. Hollywood was cashing in on all that business about the Mayan calendar, which was long known to have predicted that 2012 would be the official end of the world. Remember all that? How quaint it all was. Never a more opportune time for a movie titled “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.”

There’s a chance, since most of us are still in quarantine, to go browsing Netflix and come across this movie title, and go “Hey! Wow! This could be just the comedy to make me stop feeling depressed today.”

man in striped shirt in "Seeking a Friend For the End of the World"
T.J. Miller plays a host at a TGI Friday-like restaurant in “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.” (Focus Features)

There are two possible benefits for seeing this movie. Firstly, if you watch it, you’ll be strongly reminded that time is precious, and you will therefore henceforth meticulously plan all future movie viewing so as not to be this bored again.

Secondly, you might decide to spend your time trying to be a better person. Which is obviously good. I’m just here to tell you there are better ways to come to that conclusion.

Why It’s the End of the World

A 70-mile-wide asteroid named “Matilda” is headed toward Earth, and all attempts to divert it have failed. What to do, what to do?

man holds record player in "Seeking a Friend For the End of the World"
Dodge (Steve Carell), a man living during the end times, in “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.” (Focus Features)

Well, for one, Linda (Nancy Carell), the wife of Steve Carell’s character, Dodge, upon hearing the news, exits the car and leaves him on the spot, stomping away in her high heels.

People riot, loot, and flee their jobs in droves. It’s announced at his insurance sales office, “We have lots of new job opportunities, like, for example—anybody want to be CFO?!”

Dodge’s normally staid, well-to-do neighbors choose the rapid-moral-decline route, throwing parties—”Hey everybody, Sarah and Dave brought heroin! Who wants to go first?!”

man with mail and woman in doorway in "Seeking a Friend For the End of the World"
Dodge (Steve Carell) and Penny (Keira Knightley) in “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.” (Focus Features)

Dodge, finding all such behavior completely tasteless and pointless, starts staying home. He then crosses paths with Penny (Keira Knightley), a Converse sneakers-wearing pretty young thing who dates a musician and lives in Dodge’s building. They couldn’t be more different.

man and woman on couch in "Seeking a Friend For the End of the World"
Penny (Keira Knightley) and Dodge (Steve Carell) play an odd couple in “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.” (Focus Features)

Time is running out. They bond a bit over botched burglary (taking the moral high ground comes a bit later). They jump in her Smart car, ditch her farcically self-involved boyfriend, and flee the city. All of a sudden it’s an odd-couple road movie.

Dodge wants to see his long-lost high school girlfriend one last time. Righto. With Keira Knightley in the car. That’s what he wants. Sure he does.

woman, dog, and man in a car in "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World"
Keira Knightley and Steve Carell in the romantic comedy-drama “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World,” a film about a man’s journey to reunite with his high school sweetheart before the world ends. (Darren Michaels/Focus Features)

They have tiny adventures. They visit Dodge’s dad (Martin Sheen). Dad, a pilot, tries to fly Penny back to England to fulfill her wish of seeing her parents one last time, but the gorgeous 28-year-old wakes up en route and realizes what’s really important in her life: Dodge the insurance salesman. Really? En route to see your parents one last time and you choose him? OK, never mind.

woman on telephone in "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World"
Penny (Keira Knightley) in “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.” (Focus Features)

The movie starts off leaning toward broad comedy, as if to announce “This is a Steve Carell vehicle,” but it’s not really sure what it wants to be and eventually ends up a drama.

It is a Steve Carell vehicle, though, since it follows his usual character arc: For the first half of the movie, he’s nerdy, and the second half sees him becoming more of a leading man. It’s full of Carell’s patented fumbling and mumbling, where the drawn-out lack of resolve to speak his mind makes one want to shake him and shout, “Spit it out!”

a man's mugshot in "Seeking a Friend For the End of the World"
Normally stodgy Dodge (Steve Carell) gets a bit uncharacteristically wild during the end times in “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.” (Focus Features)

Overall, the movie manages to be hectic while lacking tension, thus paradoxically ending up irritating and boring simultaneously. It’s a script chock full of mundane musings, droning on about trivia, all accompanied by a cheesy soundtrack largely comprising little-known early-to-mid-1960s pop non-nuggets, just this side of elevator music. It’s been hip to do these retro-hit soundtracks in movies lately, but this one’s a clunker.

One never really comes to care about any of the characters, and the chemistry between the two leads feels fairly contrived. Which is a shame, because this topic is very apropos of our current COVID-idity. The Grim Reaper stalking around in our midst has a way of making normally hard decisions easy. A massive asteroid threatening to wipe out humanity demands, “Choose now!” Well … we’ve all been asking ourselves: Choose what?

This is the heartfelt (if boring) story of two people who choose not to let their humanity slide into depravity. And there you have the full benefit of this movie in a nutshell, without having to actually suffer watching it—I did your suffering for you. You’re welcome.

But make your life choices soon. The Mayans were clearly wrong, but the end of the world is very much a possibility, necessitating comportment choices of various kinds. And choices matter.

woman in purple skirt and Converse sneakers in “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”
Penny (Keira Knightley) in the romantic comedy-drama “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.”  (Darren Michaels/ Focus Features)

‘Seeking a Friend for the End of the World’
Director: Lorene Scafaria
Cast: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Connie Britton, Adam Brody
Running Time: 1 hour, 41 minutes
Rating: R
Release date: June 22, 2012
Rating value: 2.5

Follow Mark on Twitter: @FilmCriticEpoch