Thud. If a director isn’t up for the big job, then one should not insist on doing it. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World uses up all its good jokes in the opening five minutes, and then crumbles quickly thereafter. I have been a longtime supporter of both Steve Carell and Keira Knightley, but they are both badly used here. They look flustered by a script that drags them through about 18 schmaltzy scenes. Like “Melancholia” or “2012,” it’s an end of the world scenario. Except it’s going after the comedy angle. Or perhaps just the heavy-drip schmaltz angle.
Carell is an artist when it comes to playing nerdy losers in movies, but here he’s just a grumbling sad-sack. There’s nothing winning, or trying, about him. In movies like “Dan in Real Life” and “The 40-Year Old Virgin” he has enough pluck to go out there and make a fool of himself – the loser who fails time and time again until he learns to win. He has to act opposite Knightley, who can be annoying when she does the twerp ninny thing, which she does here endlessly.
It’s true, I love Carell movies for the most part. Yet I suppose this is what “Crazy Stupid Love” (I adore that film) would have looked like with this much lethargy and stupor behind the camera. The director of “Seeking a Friend” is Lorene Scafaria (“Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist”), who thinks in terms of sitcom staging and medium-shots taken out of a beginner’s textbook. Her tone is so maudlin that the comedy has no eruptive juice to it. The comedy just sits there on screen, occasional “zingers” spritz from the actors’ mouths, and you just stare back blankly. Even when these two go for a road trip, it goes nowhere.
It’s directed with such incompetence that I didn’t realize that the woman that bursts out of his car in the first scene was Carell’s wife, not just a casual date. It was one of the few funny jokes of the entire movie, but it would have been funnier had the joke been given a competent set-up. As for the ending, it’s just shockingly bland.
94 Minutes. Rated R.
COMEDY / ARMAGEDDON / WEEKEND PARTY GAME RIDICULE
Film Cousins: “Miracle Mile” (1988); “Deep Impact” (1998); “Crazy Stupid Love” (2011); “Melancholia” (2011).