Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
The apocalypse is hardly where you would expect to find a surplus of whimsy, but the wryly amusing Seeking a Friend for the End of the World makes the end times seem relatively pleasant. Not so much a disaster picture as low-key romantic comedy with introspection embedded deep in its superstructure, what it lacks in special effects it makes up for in the spectacle of genres rubbing uncomfortably against one another.
Steve Carrell stars as a painfully shy nice dude with the too-cute name "Dodge" (get it?), an average shmoe trying to brace for the inevitable. There is a giant asteroid hurtling toward Earth, and — with no Bruce Willis to save the day — the outlook is pretty bleak. Most of the population seems to be taking it in stride, all things considered, and while there are some riots, most folks are in the mood to party.
Dodge's wife has flown the coop, and, with time running out, his well-meaning friends unsuccessfully try to set him up with a wild floozy, played with abandon by Melanie Lynskey. He seems intent on sulking, until he notices that the manic pixie indie rock chick of his dreams (Keira Knightley) lives right down the hall. Together, this odd couple sets out on a last-ditch road trip to visit old friends, lost loves and estranged family.
The film works reasonably well as a black comedy, but tends to drift into sentimentality and soul-searching melancholy that can drag things down. The supporting cast is stocked with a host of funny people: Rob Corddry, Amy Schumer, T.J. Miller and Patton Oswalt, but they are mostly relegated to mere cameos.
First-time director Lorene Scarfira is sometimes in over her head but is bailed out by the skill of her lead performers (though it may be time for Carrell to consider roles farther outside his comfort zone). Still the message — that we shouldn't wait for oblivion to find love — is a nice one, and better than hiding under a desk waiting for the worst.
Opens Friday at the Maple Art Theatre, 4135 W. Maple Rd., Bloomfield Hills; 248-263-2111.