Movie Review: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World's Finds Salvation in Its Comedy Skits
Thu, 21 Jun 2012 08:52:06 PM PDT
Review in a Hurry: In the last few days before an asteroid is scheduled to hit the Earth and destroy all life, Steve Carell and Keira Knightley—having both recently broken up with significant others—go on a road trip together. You can probably guess what happens. It can be quite funny when they encounter crazies, but the earnest parts are a killer, and may elicit more groans than laughs overall.
The Bigger Picture: The movie opens with a radio broadcast informing us that our last hope, a space shuttle named Deliverance, has failed in its mission to stop the giant space rock. That shuttle name gives you an idea of the sense of humor here: yes, it was meant to "deliver" humanity, but in point of fact it ended up doing to the world metaphorically the same thing that famously got done to Ned Beatty in the movie of that same name.
No Bruce Willis types are going to save the world here. Instead, people quit their jobs en masse, get drunk 24/7, swap wives, have parties where heroin is passed around, talk back to their families...it's not unlike the '70s in many ways. Only the imminent death isn't just a nuclear possibility, but a 100% mass certainty. And Steve Carell's Dodge just kinda sits around moping, because that's how he is. He does get his face covered in spider bites at one point, but the swelling goes down incredibly fast. Perhaps this what life would have been like for Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, had he not been whisked away by aliens in time.
Penny (Knightley) is his flaky stoner neighbor, who enters his apartment in search of company with the line, "I won't steal anything if you don't rape me." When riots break out one night, and they make a break for safety, the two find themselves thrown together on a journey. She'll help him find his long-lost high-school flame, provided that after that, they go visit a friend of his with a plane, so Penny can get back to England and reunite with her family. We learn she's quirky because she still likes vinyl records, and he's dorky because he wears sweaters.
Along the way, they find themselves essentially entering unrelated comedy skits: Rob Corddry yelling gleefully at his family while airing grievances without restraint, T.J. Miller as a doped-up waiter in a T.G.I. Friday's-type chain that's become a rave, and a creepy trucker who isn't what he seems. These are the best parts of the film.
But writer director Lorene Scafaria would undoubtedly tell you that it's really about the main characters and their humanity, and this is where the movie's lacking. A patently obvious and sentimental "surprise" falls flat, and when Penny earnestly says, "I don't want to close my eyes," how can you not think of Aerosmith in Armageddon and laugh inappropriately?
This story has been told in serious fashion before—Don McKellar's Last Night is but the most notable recent version. Seeking a Friend's strength ought to be its oddball humor (Patton Oswalt also shows up), but in the end, it once again comes down to movie stars getting together because they can, not because the story feel true.
READ: Steve Carell Sends Off Princeton University Graduates: "You Should Have to Suffer!"
The 180—a Second Opinion: Spin City's Connie Britton gives an inspired performance as Corddry's hedonistic wife. Let's see her in some more movies, please.
PHOTOS: Snapped on Set: Movies