Movie Review: ‘Seeking a Friend for the End of the World’

June 24, 2012 Updated: September 29, 2015
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It’s now the year 2012. We’ve probably all heard the business about the Mayan calendar predicting the 2012 end-of-the-world scenario. Could there be a more opportune time for a movie titled “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World?” Will that pack ’em in the theaters? Not likely.

The two possible benefits of seeing this movie are that, firstly, in this year you have left to live, since time is precious, you will 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. That’s always good.

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?

Well, for one, the wife of Steve Carell’s character, 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?!”

Carell’s character is named Dodge. Dodge’s normally staid, well-to-do neighbors choose the rapid-moral-decline route, throwing parties—”Hey everybody, Sarah and Dave brought (heavy illegal narcotic). Who wants to go first?!”

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

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Time is running out. They bond a bit over botched burglary. 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.

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?

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 probably 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!”

Overall, the movie manages to be hectic while lacking tension, thus paradoxically ending up irritating and boring simultaneously. It’s a script that’s chock full of mundane musings; it drones on about various and sundry trivia, all the while accompanied by a cheesy soundtrack largely comprising little-known early-to-mid-1960s pop non-nuggets, just this side of elevator music.

One never really comes to care about any of the characters, and the chemistry between the two leads feels fairly contrived.
Imminent death has a way of making normally hard decisions easy. A massive asteroid threatening to wipe out humanity says, “Choose now!”

Choose what? This is the heartfelt, if boring, story of two people who choose not to let their humanity slide into depravity. While it would be nice to seek a friend to see this movie with, you might want to make your major choices at home. But make them soon—the Mayans might be right, and the choices might matter.

Follow Mark on Twitter: @FilmCriticEpoch