Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Directed By: Lorene Scafaria

Starring: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Rob Corddry, Patton Oswalt, Adam Brody, Derek Luke, and Martin Sheen

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think Steve Carell has been typecast as an actor.  In one way or another, he always plays somebody with an emotional imbalance.  His characters are either way too jolly or way too depressing.  He hardly ever plays normal people.  Just look back at a long list of films ranging from 40-Year-Old Virgin and Little Miss Sunshine to Dinner for Schmucks and Crazy, Stupid, Love.  For the most part, this has worked out well for him so far because of his unique brand of comedy.  However, I would like to see him expand his repertoire a little more.  Carell’s latest flick Seeking a Friend for the End of the World offers another look at his take on a depressed, lonely guy.

While getting all their classic rock on 107.2 FM, Dodge (Carell) and his wife Linda (Nancy Carell) learn that the world will be destroyed in three weeks by a giant asteroid named Matilda that’s on a collision course with Earth.  Linda takes this as an opportunity to ditch Dodge and live out her final days the way she wants.  Alone and depressed, Steve begins to live out his last days without her.  In his professional life, his boss Alfred (Roger Aaron Brown) is handing out vacated executive positions left and right.  In his personal life, his friends Warren (Rob Corddry) and Roache (Patton Oswalt) are partying like rock stars with lots of heroine, liquor, and random sex.  Warren's wife Diane (Connie Britton) and her friend Karen (Melanie Lynskey) both take passes at the lonely Dodge.  Apathetic to all of this, a depressed Dodge goes to the park and drinks a bottle of Windos (a fake brand of Windex) in an attempt to commit suicide.

Dodge wakes up the next morning in the park with a note on his chest saying "Sorry" and an unknown dog staring him down.  He takes the dog and goes back home to his apartment.  As he plays the harmonica and looks at photos of Olivia — his high school sweetheart and the woman who got away — Dodge notices his recently single neighbor crying outside his window.  He lets her in and introduces himself.  Penny (Keira Knightley) tells Dodge about all her problems and how she will never see her family again because she missed the last flight to the UK.  She smokes some weed, they watch a little TV, and they fall asleep on the couch. 

After Penny's gone back to her apartment, she returns some mail that was mistakenly delivered to her instead of Dodge over the last several years.  It just so happens that Olivia sent Dodge a love letter of which he was unaware for three months.  When rioters and looters make their way to Dodge and Penny's apartment complex, Dodge, now determined to survive until the end and find his long lost love, meets Penny and escapes with her.  In Penny's car the two make a pact.  If Penny can help Dodge find Olivia, then Dodge will get her a flight across the pond so she can see her family one last time.

Steve Carell's Dodge is another one of his depressing characters.  While he does well in the role, he offers nothing we haven't seen from him previously.  Because of this, I doubt his lonely self-loathing character will prove to be the most enjoyable character of the film.  Keira Knightley's Penny is actually much more interesting.  The weed-loving, sleep-obsessed 28-year-old gives the apocalyptic film a breath of fresh air and some cheer to counteract Carell's character.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is an enjoyable flick.  I just don't think director Lorene Scafaria quite gives this film the focus it needs.  The comedy-drama has elements of so many different genres that it's tonally imbalanced.  At one moment, it feels like a lighthearted, somewhat raunchy comedy.  At the next, it feels like a depressing, dramatic exploration of characters facing certain death.  With the fact that Dodge and Penny are on the road, the film also has elements of a road trip movie.  Scafaria tops things off with a romantic undercurrent throughout the film.  This is a lot to accomplish in an apocalyptic comedy that doesn't even clock in at two hours.  Scafaria needs to make the film a little simpler to make it better.

As far as comedy goes, there are plenty of laughs throughout Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.  A lot of it comes from the wide variety of supporting cast members including Rob Corddry, Adam Brody and Mark Moses.  Rob Corddry's Warren is undeniably hilarious.  The Hot Tub Time Machine star is rocking a Dunkin' Donuts t-shirt, partying hard, and introducing his kids to the joys of hard liquor.  Penny's ex-boyfriend Owen (Adam Brody) is surprisingly amusing.  When Owen starts using her as a shield from gunfire during riots, I absolutely cracked up.  It's the little things like this that bring some humor.  Mark Moses's anchorman is pretty entertaining.  His end of the world broadcasts offer quite a bit of dry wit.  The underlying headlines from government conspiracy theorists add another layer of comedy to his broadcasts as well.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World offers a healthy dose of comedy and a sweet romance.  After enduring riots, an extended road trip, and an extremely odd visit to Friendsys, the film finally gets going.  When it becomes a really entertaining flick, Scafaria decides to end it abruptly and unnecessarily early.  Altogether, this makes the film a bit unrewarding.  Because of this, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World gets a 0.06% rating.  Have a few glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon with this one.