Steve Carell rose from TV star to movie star pretty quickly, thanks in large part to the success of The 40-Year-Old Virgin. However, it would seem, and this may be reductive and, to many people, mostly irrelevant, that the vast majority of his films do not connect with either audiences or critics. You hear very few people espousing the merits of Dan in Real Life, and a Get Smart sequel doesn't seem very likely. As such, perhaps it isn't surprising that it feels like Seeking a Friend for the End of the World flew under the radar, despite the fact that it is a big film. Well, at the very least the concept is big, what with the end of the world being right there in the (quite long) title.
Carell stars as the somewhat oddly named Dodge Peterson, a... well, a guy. To be honest, Dodge, despite being the main character, is somewhat of a flat character. He's sort of the everyman, but taking it perhaps a tinge too far. When the movie begins, we find out that a giant asteroid is going to destroy the planet Earth in three weeks, and that's that. Needless to say, a lot of folks are having trouble dealing with the matter. Dodge's wife leaves him, and he just sort of quietly, sadly floats through his life. Then, he meets his downstairs neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley). They quickly develop a friendship, and when the city around them starts to devolve into madness and rioting, the two take off on a mission to try and find the first love of Dodge's life. All while, you know, the apocalypse awaits.
For a movie about the impending end of the world, this film is sort of meandering. It isn't necessarily low stakes, but it can feel like it some time. It is largely a two-hander between Carell and Knightley, and since Carell's Dodge isn't all that engaging of a character, this is a bit of an issue. It's not Carell's fault, however. His acting is fine. He's just not given a lot to work with. On the other hand, Knightley is quite enjoyable as Penny. She is what some might call a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Sure, some may balk at that description, but to be fair, she does have an esoteric record correction. Also, she's British. Anyway, Knightley's good in her role, one that seems to ask her to cry what feels like every 10 minutes or so. This may be because when she cries her face contorts in all sort of striking ways.
Aside from Dodge and Penny, everybody else is more or less there for a cameo, and there are plenty of big cameos. Some are comedic, such as Rob Corddry and T.J. Miller, while others, which will go unspoiled here, are there for more serious moments. Also, Jerry from Parks and Recreation is in the movie! As you may have guessed due to the many cameos, the movie does feel like a series of set pieces at times, but that isn't necessarily uncommon for a movie, and as long as there is some degree of flow, it can be forgiven. It does try and run the gamut of emotions as well. It has clearly comedic scenes and moments, some of which are funny, but it also gets very sentimental and very emotional at times. Not to spoil the ending, but let it just be said it is a straight-up gut punch. The directing, done by writer of the film Lorene Scafaria, is fine, if unspectacular.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World was marketed as a comedy, but it is much more serious and, occasionally, melodramatic, than a straight-up comedy. At its peaks, it succeeds at both, but that leaves the mushy middle. Not having an interesting main character also hurts, and the movie floundered from time to time. It could have, perhaps, been served by being a bit shorter, but overall it is a good movie, provided you are cool with watching a movie about the end of human life.