As a film, Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World is kinda like this cute guy that I once sat behind in a creative writing class. He talked so passionately about his writing that it made it even more disappointing when he finally showed me what he had written and it turned out to be the blandest rip-off of Kerouac that I had ever read. Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World has such a great trailer and such a great cast that it’s impossible not to be disappointed even more than usual that the actual film is mediocre.
The opening scene of Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World finds Dodge (Steve Carell) and his wife parked off the side of the road, listening to a news report informing them that, in 20 days, a gigantic asteroid named Matilda is going to crash into the Earth and end existence as we know it. Dodge responds to the news by saying that he thinks that he missed their exit on the highway. His wife responds by silently getting out of the car and running away into the night, never to be seen again. It’s a brilliant opening and it filled me with false hope for the rest of the film.
Anyway, Dodge continues to go about his life even as the countdown to end of it commences. He goes to work, he goes to a depressing dinner party, and occasionally, he stops moving long enough to watch another random person commit suicide in front of him. Yes, Dodge is pretty depressed but luckily, there’s a manic pixie dream girl (Kiera Knightley) living in the apartment below him. When rioting breaks out, he and Knightley escape to the countryside where they search for both Dodge’s high school girlfriend and an airplane to allow Knightley to fly back to England and see her parents. Along the way, they fall in love and the entire film pretty much falls apart.
Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World is at its best during the first fourth of the film when the emphasis is on dark humor and the absurdity of the situation that Dodge has found himself in. Unfortunately, once Carell and Knightley leave the city and find themselves traveling through the most prosaic countryside imaginable, the film seems to be unsure of just what exactly it wants to be. The mix of dark humor and uplifting message is an awkward one and the end result is an uneven film that, ultimately, is just too bland to suggest that we should care that the world’s going to end.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to truly forgive Steve Carell for leaving The Office and turning my favorite TV show into The Ed Helms Show. However, when I blink enough times that I can actually look at things from a perspective beyond my own selfish concerns, I can see that Carell made the right decision. Steve Carell is a film star and that’s proven by the fact that, even when he’s appearing in a mediocre film, he’s still compelling to watch. As uneven as Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World is, Carell gives an excellent performance. I think the secret to Steve Carell’s on-screen charisma is that he’s got the saddest eyes in the movies. There’s a sense of real sadness and regret to every character that Steve Carell has ever played and, as a result, he can make the weakest of material seem poignant. As disappointing as Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World is, it remains watchable and that’s almost totally due to Steve Carell.