SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD (director/writer: Lorene Scafaria; cinematographer: Tim Orr; editor: Zene Baker; music: Rob Simonsen/Jonathan Sadoff; cast: Steve Carell (Dodge), Keira Knightley (Penny), Connie Britton (Diane), Adam Brody (Owen), Rob Corddry (Warren), Gillian Jacobs (Waitress/Katie), Derek Luke (Speck), Adam Brody (Owen), Melanie Lynskey (Karen), Bob Stephenson (Traffic Cop), T. J. Miller (Chipper Host/Darcy), Mark Moses (Anchorman), Patton Oswalt (Roache), Tonita Castro (Elsa), William Petersen (Trucker), Martin Sheen (Frank, Dodge’s dad); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Steve Golin/Joy Gorman Wettels/Steven Rales/Mark Roybal; Focus Features; 2012)
“Stale but safe apocalyptic romcom.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Lorene Scafaria (“Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”) is a writer from New Jersey making her directing debut in this stale but safe apocalyptic romcom. It’s a banal, humorless and unaffecting take on an end of the world scenario that’s been filmed many times before and with usually better results. Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia” and Abel Ferrara’s “4:44 Last Day on Earth” are two examples of such recent films.
We learn from a CNN-like TV-newscast that a massive asteroid named Matilda is 21 days away from crashing into Earth and ending the world, with no hope of avoiding the tragedy. On top of that for sad sack suburban New Jersey insurance salesman Dodge Petersen (Steve Carell), hisunfaithful wife has just left him. But Dodge sticks to his routines of daily gym workouts, reporting for work at his office and allowing his friendly but moronic Hispanic housekeeper Elsa (Tonita Castro) to clean his luxury building apartment. The downcast Dodge’s crude married friends (Rob Corddry and Connie Britton) try to cheer him up by inviting him to their swinging druggie party and fixing him up with the sexy but moronic Karen (Melanie Lynskey), someone he has nothing in common with. Predictably things change for the dull nice guy insurance man when he takes ownership of a cute terrier he finds lost in the park and names him Sorry because of a note attached to him by his former owner. Dodge then runs into the cute but flaky next door neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley), someone he never met before despite living there for three years.When there’s a riot in the neighborhood, Dodge flees with Penny, forgiving her for acting like a moron and not giving him his mail that was wrongly placed in his mailbox and thereby preventing him from answering a love letter sent by his first love. When Penny’s moron musician boyfriend (Adam Brody) uses her as a human shield to flee from the rioters she ditches him. Now alone with Dodge, they decide to visit his first love, while Penny wants to return to England to die at home with her beloved parents but can’t since all commercial flights are put on hold. When her car runs out of gas they hitch a ride with a moronic trucker (William Petersen), who hired a hit man to kill him. Using the trucker’s vehicle to continue their journey they find themselves overwhelmed by a moronic happy-go-lucky waitstaff in a restaurant that gives good service a new meaning and then in a giddy mood from either swallowing or smoking weed trek on until their vehicle is impounded for speeding by a rigid moronic traffic cop (Bob Stephenson), and after released from a night in the slammer they trek to Camden to get a loaner car from a creepy survivalist former boyfriend (Derek Luke) of Penny’s. The highway leads to them finding the house of Dodge’s first love and with him having a reconciliation visit with his estranged father (Martin Sheen), and the realization that on the last day he would like to snuggle-up with Penny.
In this indigestible serving of slop, the plodding trite film moves on without insight, without any funny moments and without any buzz that Penny and Dodge have it in them to get it on together. When this stiff film wasn’t being moronic, it had little to offer but the glimmer of hope at the climax it can get a scene together that showed a real intimacy was growing between the two lost souls. Otherwise it’s clumsily shot, the visuals are a drag and the apocalyptic story-line is so lamely written it doesn’t even have a sense of urgency about it. The lackluster pic only manages to get a drab performance from Carell, who seems tightly bound by the colorless lightweight script and fails to register as a real person caught in a catastrophe and ready to come alive to his senses before it’s too late.
REVIEWED ON 6/25/2012 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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