Susan Granger's review of 'Seeking a Friend for the End of the World'
Give writer/director Lorene Scafaria credit for tweaking a comedic twist on the terrifying apocalypse predicted by some interpretations of the Mayan calendar.
As a 70-mile wide asteroid catapults toward Earth and all attempts to divert it have failed, people are confused about how to spend their final days. Many intoxicate themselves into oblivion. Others riot in the streets. And some simply go to work as usual, like soft-spoken insurance salesman, Dodge (Steve Carell), even though his wife has just left him for another man. Resigned to loneliness, Dodge reasons, "I can't spend the last month getting to know someone."
But when Dodge finds his ditsy British neighbor, Penny (Keira Knightley), crying on the fire escape after leaving her boorish boy-friend, he invites her in -- to sleep on his couch. In return, Penny retrieves Dodge's mail that's been mistakenly put in her post-box, and he discovers that Olivia, his old high-school girl-friend, has been trying to get in touch with him, confessing that he was the love of her life. That sets Dodge on a quest through New Jersey and Delaware to find Olivia, accompanied on this bucolic road trip by Penny, who yearns to get back to her family in Surrey, but since planes have ceased flying, that's not possible.
Problem is: it's a formulaic, predictable romantic comedy. Lorene Scafaria ("Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist") devises only a few minimal surprises and fails to capitalize on Patton Oswalt, Connie Britton, Rob Corddry, and Martin Sheen cameos. While Dodge supposedly works in New York, his having a designated rooftop parking spot there is highly unlikely. Stopping at a Friensy restaurant offers an amusing diversion but, unfortunately, Steve Carell has played this kind of wistful schlub so often that he could do it in his sleep - and almost does - since he has zero chemistry with Keira Knightley.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" is a soulful 6, as the doomsday clock stops ticking.