By: T.J. “I promise not to steal anything if you promise not to rape me” Mulligan
Armageddon, Apocalypse, The End of Days… Everyone, from the most scholarly scientist to the most devout religious follower agrees that these are an eventual inevitability. Whether through war, climate change, an act of God or some means as of yet unforeseen, the clock seems to be ticking on the existence of the human race on Earth. It’s a depressing concept and one that’s difficult to simply accept. Perhaps that’s why the subject has been covered many different ways on film. While most apocalyptic films deal with the drama and tragedy involved of the nature of the human spirit to overcome, it’s very rarely used as the backdrop in telling another story, let alone a romantic comedy. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World does just that, proving that the end of existence as we know it can be funny… sort of.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is the story of Dodge (Steve Carell), a man whose wife has left him in the wake of being informed, along with the rest of the world, that a giant asteroid dubbed “Mathilda” is on a collision course with Earth that will wipe out all life. With only three weeks left of existence, everyone reacts to the news in different ways. After trying to go back to his usual life of work, the gym, spending time with friends and the like, Dodge quickly begins losing hope and starts searching for a reason to keep going for the remaining time. One night, while reminiscing on “the girl who got away” in his life, he discovers Penny (Keira Knightly), a young woman crying on his fire escape. They begin to chat and establish a bond over the course of the night between Dodge’s depression and Penny’s sadness at missing the last flight ever to England, where her family resides. When the end looms closer and people begin to turn violent, Dodge and Penny make a pact to help each other achieve their respective goals of getting Dodge to his lost love and getting Penny to her family.
What makes this movie work: Unpredictability. Given the unique setting of the film, the audience is left guessing the whole time as to what will happen next, a quality very sorely lacking in the romantic comedy genre. The lead characters of Carell’s Dodge and Knightly’s Penny are so likable that you can’t help but want what’s best for them, even if you know as little as they do as to what they might entail. Even the minor characters are make to stick out because they are all handling a situation that effects all of them differently, yet all in very realistic ways. These are people hurdling toward their demise and while some handle it with poise and a level of grace, many are acting like utter goofballs (which is how I’d expect most people to actually react).
What makes this move not work: the comedy of it all. Carell is joined frequently by very talented comedic actors such as his wife Nancy, Rob Huebel, Adam Brody, Rob Corddry, Patton Oswalt, Gillian Jacobs and T.J. Miller, but they only every play very small roles in the film. While the scenes are funny and the characters are somewhat memorable, the laughs are too infrequent and usually only just good enough to illicit some lightly audible chuckles. This doesn’t inherently make Seeking a Friend for the End of the World bad, but it does make it fail as a comedy on the whole.
In fact I can’t say that the movie was bad at all. It was sweet, different, had good performances and kept me guessing as to how it was all going to unfold the whole time. The problem is I don’t see myself caring to watch the movie again in 5 years time and probably won’t even remember it without some serious thought in 10. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a great concept and terrific effort that just falls too short.
I give Seeking a Friend for the End of the World 3 dogs named “Sorry” out of 5.