Genre: Dramatic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 41 min.
Release Date: June 22nd, 2012 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Lorene Scafaria Actors: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Adam Brody, Connie Britton, Rob Corddry, Patton Oswalt, Martin Sheen, Melanie Lynskey
n unending, melancholy tone permeates the entire film, once again demonstrating Steve Carell’s knack for that typical, sad, lonely character he always assumes (when he’s not the cocky, ignorant, inconsiderate “Michael Scott” persona). But unlike “Dan in Real Life” or “Little Miss Sunshine,” there are few ups and downs – the role isn’t nearly dynamic enough for audiences to invest in the somber development that keeps his plight from being emotionally involving. Similarly, Keira Knightley goes through the motions of being an unlikely companion without a convincing connection that could warrant their cross-country pilgrimage to find meaning in a world coming undone.
Dodge Petersen (Steve Carell) still goes to work each day at Metropolitan Consolidated Life Insurance, even though a 70-mile-wide asteroid named “Matilda” has just annihilated space shuttle Deliverance, the last remaining hope for saving Earth from certain doom. The countdown has begun: 21 days before the world ends. Many resort to abandoning hope, participating in carefree orgies of food and sex, or spending their final hours with family and friends. Penny (Keira Knightley) has missed her last opportunity to fly home and so laments outside Dodge’s window. The two strike up a friendship and decide to embark on an odyssey to reunite Dodge with his high school sweetheart – a reconciliation botched by Penny retaining a misdelivered letter for Dodge. They’re also accompanied by a randomly deserted dog dubbed “Sorry” – a witty moniker never fully utilized.
It’s sometimes touching and undeniably soothing to see the obvious counterparts come to a romantic fruition, even if the casting choices don’t appear completely compatible. Perhaps it’s the age difference, or the contrasting personalities, or witnessing brief, unfulfilling assemblies of Penny’s past admirers that seem probable yet discordant. Or maybe it’s Dodge’s admirable yet clashing sacrifices for love that suggest contrivance and an expected resolution. Regardless, a deeper association with the lead duo is elusive, what with the pervasive reminiscing, brooding, and irrational behaviors that are never delirious enough to be funny. Serenity arises, but not as repeatedly as bewilderment from the scenario.
This setting, with citizens either rioting, killing, offing themselves, contradictorily mowing the lawn as if to forget, or stocking bomb shelters for apocalyptic survival, is both the most unique element and the film’s undoing. Ceding appeasement for an eye-opening twist essentially ruins the normal romantic comedy hiding beneath the frantic premise. And it’s toned down to a degree, materializing less anarchy and chaos than might be expected (infidelity, rape, and theft become a casual joke) if the situation were real – yet the shock of suicide and death still work their way into the picture. Enlightenment, a day at the beach, and reconnecting with loved ones can’t mask the nerve-wracking, spontaneous nature of encountering bizarre strangers and frequenting eerily abandoned houses. At times it’s more disturbing than humorous or romantic. Why should this bleak device interfere so tragically with a simple tale of recognizing the importance of truly worthwhile relationships?
– Mike Massie