Why does every shortsighted, moribund movie character sleepwalking through life work in insurance? Dodge (Steve Carell), Lorene Scafaria’s sweater-wearing policy specialist in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, is at the business end of this well-tread dramedy cliché, but he’s just one in a series of derivative speed bumps slowing down the Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist writer’s directorial debut.
Saddled with the knowledge that Earth will be decimated by an enormous asteroid in a few weeks’ time, Dodge’s adult friends start going nuts, feeding their children hard liquor, shooting heroin and screwing anyone who establishes eye contact with them. Dodge, meanwhile, continues going about his humdrum day-to-day, even after his miserable wife walks out on him. Enter Dodge’s flighty neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley), a vinyl-worshiping wispy-girl archetype cast from the mold of Natalie Portman in Garden State, who agrees to accompany Dodge and a cute stray dog (how irreverent!) on a journey to find his high-school sweetheart. You can probably guess what develops between these two crazy kids who have nothing in common.
The inexorable trudge toward Judgment Day and the bacchanal it births is an interesting backdrop for what’s essentially a road-trip rom-com — there’s a tremendous scene inside a sexually liberated TGI Friday’s-style restaurant and a very weird sequence with William Petersen as a creepy trucker-philosopher — but the two leads are mapped out to uninventive extremes. Dodge has heavy daddy issues! Penny can’t commit! This is why they are the way they are! With the planet’s fate already sealed, who cares?