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Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (AF)


Stars: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, William Petersen, Patton Oswalt, Melanie Lynskey, Derek Luke,Gillian Jacobs, Adam Brody, T.J. Miller, Connie Britton, Nancy Carell

Director: Lorene Scafaria

As romantic comedies go, this emaciated effort eventually goes nowhere and goes far too slowly into the bargain.

A giant rogue asteroid is on a collision course with Earth and all Mankind is due to be wiped out in 21 days time. There are riots (small scale, since the film’s budget is clearly low – we never see the asteroid itself, for example) and much of the key narrative is conveyed through (much cheaper to stage) television newscasts.

Middle aged insurance man Carell (who at one stage tells us “I regret my whole life”) whose wife (played by his real-life wife) has left him and gone off with her lover, attends a “last supper” given by friends where dope is taken and orgies happen. Carell doesn’t join in.

After the best line, “This is the ‘Titanic’ … and there’s not a lifeboat in sight”, the film follows the doomed liner and sinks.

Carell’s wacky bohemian neighbour Knightley (“I won’t steal anything if you don’t rape me”) enters the scene and the odd couple drive off to search for Carell’s former girlfriend. Result? An aspirant road movie that sees Carell and Knightley falling in love just in time to die with the rest of the Earth’s population…

But long before the screen glowed bright orange to signify the end of the world as we know it as well as the too long delayed end of the film, I was praying for the asteroid to strike and end the growing tedium.

Writer-director Scafaria throws in CSI survivor Petersen as someone waiting to be killed, Sheen in an inconsequential, inconsequentially-played minor role, along with a policeman who jails the couple for a traffic infringement because he has no intention of dropping his standards as a lawman simply because he’s scheduled to die in a few days, along with a close encounter with Knightley’s former lover and his fellow survivalists who are holed out with weapons and provisions in an underground bunker.

Knightley and Carell fall in love (and enjoy “end-of-the-world" sex) but sadly she, like him and the film itself, never convinces.

I hope I haven’t made it seem interesting. It isn’t. Carell’s complete lack of charisma kills his already flat performance, such as it is, stone dead. Given a chance, he could replace all known anaesthetics and save the NHS a fortune.

Alan Frank

USA 2011. UK Distributor: StudioCanal. Technicolor.
101 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 2, Swearing 2.

Review date: 10 Jul 2012