I CAN'T FIGURE OUT why Steve Carell keeps getting cast as the straight man. His two best roles—The Office's Michael Scott and Anchorman's Brick Tamland—had him playing outrageous, unbelievable, over-the-top characters, but here's the boring version of Carell again in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, in which he's the sad-sack romantic lead: mumbling, awkward, depressed, depressing Dodge Petersen.
An asteroid is on a crash course with Earth, giving Dodge and the rest of humanity about three weeks before the apocalypse—and for the first half hour or so, writer/director Lorene Scafaria injects the film with scathing, unrepentantly dark humor. Scafaria's time writing for Childrens Hospital is in full effect (along with very funny cameos by Patton Oswalt, Rob Corddry, Rob Huebel, and others) as Dodge's pathetic qualities are played for laughs: He continues to clock in for his soul-numbing insurance job; he still endeavors to go to the gym; his wife literally sprints away from him as soon as they learn the world is going to be destroyed.
But then Dodge meets his wacky neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley), and everything turns into romantic glop. Together, Penny and Dodge escape from a riot-stricken New York with a scruffy dog in tow, and, naturally, a handful of treasured albums from Penny's vinyl collection. (FYI, a plucky girl toting around impractical, heavy LPs during an impending apocalypse is so adorably quirky-cute that you'll barf right into your popcorn.) The two drive to Delaware, where Dodge is looking for his long-lost high-school sweetheart and Penny hopes to find a plane home. Knightley's super irritating, of course, and while it's not all terrible, it's disappointing to see Seeking a Friend abandon its initial, successful attempts at comedy in favor of lazy, gooey, touchy romance as the two inevitably fall in love as the world ends. Turns out Armageddon is merely the tickiest of ticking clocks.