Steve Carell is glum. And who can blame him? His character’s wife leaves him right at the start of “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.”
Just ups and runs off without a backward glance or word of farewell.
Oh, and the world is doomed. A giant meteor is hurtling toward Earth. Impact is three weeks away, and there’s not a darn thing anyone can do about it. So there’s that.
Who wouldn’t be glum? And Carell does glum very well. He’s a little mopey, a lot wistful, but never paralyzingly gloomy. Nice glum, in other words.
And “Seeking a Friend” is a nice little movie. Too nice, really, for its apocalyptic subject matter. Think of it as a greeting-card version of the end of times. Self-consciously winsome. Decorous. It has, for example, what might be the most well-mannered riot scene ever filmed. It happens in the background at a polite remove from the two central characters. Nothing too threatening, in other words, in writer-director Lorene Scafaria’s depiction of the breakdown of civil order in the run-up to doomsday.
Carell’s character, Dodge, is a mild-mannered insurance man. Keira Knightley, playing his upstairs neighbor Penny, is a cheerful free spirit. With Dodge’s unfaithful wife departed and Penny’s whiny boyfriend (Adam Brody) quickly written out of the picture, these two sort-of opposites hit the road together in search of Dodge’s long-lost sweetheart. He mopely hopes to find true love before it’s too late.
The trip brings them into contact with a number of mildly offbeat minor characters – an annoyingly hyper waiter, an overly officious cop, among others – with whom they share some humorous low-wattage, well, adventures is too strong a word. Call them, instead, encounters.
Penny’s perkiness helps Dodge ditch his glum demeanor. Love blooms, as we expected it would.
Oh, and the couple’s road trip takes them to some very nice suburban houses. So this is how the world ends: Not with a bang or a whimper, but with a leisurely home tour. And a stifled yawn. ‘Seeking a Friend for the End of the World’
Cast: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Adam Brody, William Petersen
Director/writer: Lorene Scafaria
Running time: 1:41
Rated: R; language, sexual references, brief violence