Seeking a Friend for the End of the World 

Apocalypse Blah.

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Didn't we just see this movie? In Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, a giant asteroid named Matilda is streaking toward Earth and will destroy our planet. As we join the story there are only 21 days until impact and things are growing tense. Cell phone service has been shut off and all commercial airline flights cancelled. TV broadcasts are also winding down. People are just beginning to loot and murder indiscriminately, although some walk around anaesthetized, wearing their funniest clothes.

While all this is going on, lonely guy Dodge (played by Steve Carell) still reports to his job at the insurance company every day and then returns to his apartment, where his unaccountably cheerful housekeeper Elsa (Tonita Castro) is there to chirp to him about cleaning products. Dodge's wife has abruptly left him — probably heard about a good apocalypse party somewhere — and now, despite life on Earth coming to a rapid conclusion, his friends are busy throwing dinner parties and trying to fix him up with women. In vain. Dodge doesn't want a date for the cataclysm, he's fine just sitting by himself.

All of a sudden, up pops a sobbing neighbor from the floor below, Penny (Keira Knightley). Her method for dealing with the end of days is to curl up and sleep. The thought appeals to us as well, but we keep watching as Penny and Dodge, tentatively at first, relate to each other over codeine cough syrup and a cute pooch named Sorry.

Sorry is indeed the word for actress-turned-filmmaker Lorene Scafaria's screenplay, which melds the most maudlin tendencies of both disaster movies and losers-in-love stories. Dodge and Penny form a bond and embark on a road trip. No stone is left unturned. Dodge yearns to reunite with his ex, if only to tell her how much he still loves her. For this, Carell puts on his "kick me hard, please" expression — there's a definite air of Ben Stiller about him. Penny, similarly unlucky in romance, knows she will die without seeing her folks in England again. She clutches her collection of regrettable vinyl LPs — Herb Alpert, Scott Walker, Bee Gees — to her bosom like a talisman. Not one of Knightley's best outings, but she's able to at least make Penny's helpless cuteness pay off. With Carell the end threatens to arrive with half a whimper.

They run into a philosophical dude in a pickup truck (William Petersen) and one of Penny's exes (Derek Luke) in a bomb shelter. They discover religion by the ocean. We fully expect them to die in each other's arms like those old folks in Titanic, wrapped in a cocoon of nostalgia and calmly awaiting the end. The third act drags measurably.

But there is one genuinely funny scene amid the tears — when the happy couple wanders into Friendsy's restaurant and finds not survivalists, but stoned clowns. Seeking a Friend establishes a record for the saddest movie with the most dope-smoking scenes. There's also a sharp cameo with comic Patton Oswalt (Big Fan), at a party, fantasizing about sex. When Dodge and Penny finally get around to it, their act of love is intended to cause sniffles. The sorrow and the pity never let up. Even if there weren't really only 21 days left until the world goes kablooey, you wouldn't want to waste your precious time watching this.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Rated R · 101 minutes · 2012
Official Site: focusfeatures.com/seeking_a_friend_for_the_end_of_the_world
Director: Lorene Scafaria
Producer: Steve Golin, Joy Wettels, Nathan Kahane and Nicole Brown
Cast: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Adam Brody, Connie Britton, Melanie Lynskey, Rob Corddry, Patton Oswalt, Derek Luke, Martin Sheen, Roger Aaron Brown, Rob Huebel, Gillian Jacobs, Tonita Castro, Leslie Murphy, William Petersen and Nancy Carell

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