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Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Universal // R // October 23, 2012
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Randy Miller III | posted October 19, 2012 | E-mail the Author

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012) introduces us to Dodge Peterson (Steve Carell), a morose insurance salesman whose wife leaves him after a profoundly disturbing news report. The world's only got three weeks left before a massive asteroid is due for impact, giving the human race more than enough time to descend into moral chaos. Everyone reacts in their own way: non-stop substance abuse, random acts of kindness, commitment-free sex, immediate suicide. Meanwhile, Dodge just kind of mopes around for a few days, stuck in a daze because he's chosen to tread water most of his life. He even shows up to work at least once and fields desperate phone calls from people worried about their junk.

Dodge's mental stupor is broken by two things: Penny (Keira Knightley), a flighty British neighbor who's despondent about never seeing her parents again, and the revelation that his first love, "Olivia", is interested in reuniting. Dodge's physical stupor is broken by a brick through his window, courtesy of the rioting masses. Naturally, Dodge and Penny leave town and form a partnership: she'll drive him to Olivia and he'll help her find a plane ride back home. This might cause a viewer's eyes to roll as they imagine any number of convoluted romantic comedy/drama scenarios, very few of which come to pass.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World does manage to disappoint, but in mostly unexpected ways. Our story shifts into "road trip" mode soon enough, as Dodge and Penny meet all sorts of oddballs with different outlooks on life during their final days. Some are living it up in every way possible. Others are determined to survive by any means necessary. A few are relatively content with their fate and haven't changed a thing. Yet these little pit stops feel more like time killers than effective character moments: it's obvious that Dodge and Penny will eventually develop feelings for one another, but our two leads just don't have enough chemistry to pull off the illusion. The troubled heart and soul of their short-lived relationship fizzles like a poor man's Lost in Translation, only with more Armageddon and less Japan.

I'll admit that the film's first act effectively sells the grim scenario on a limited budget, while its brave ending at least ends everything on an artistic note. A third act montage featuring The Hollies' "The Air That I Breathe" is especially well executed, even if it frames the implausible scenario of one pilot flying a single-engine plane over the Atlantic Ocean. Aside from that, the film's sporadic highlights occur when Dodge and Penny are simply sharing quiet moments together. Most everything else is just a distraction, which accounts for at least three-quarters of the film's 101-minute lifespan. Seeking a Friend ambitiously aims for at least three different genres, but it doesn't manage to hit any of the bulls-eyes.

Focus Features presents Seeking a Friend for the End of the World as a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack, serving up an excellent technical presentation with a few light and forgettable bonus features.

Quality Control Department

Video & Audio Quality

Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer of Seeking a Friend for the End of the World looks great from start to finish. The film tends to favor warm tones and everything is rendered accurately with strong black levels, textures and overall image detail. No apparent digital problems could be picked up along the way, so there's not much to complain about. Fans will undoubtedly be pleased.

DISCLAIMER: These images were taken from the included DVD and do not represent Blu-Ray's native 1080p resolution.

The default DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is also quite capable, boasting crisp dialogue and occasional uses of strong channel separation and rear channel activity. Low frequency emissions are infrequent but definitely make themselves known on occasion. The music also opens up quite nicely at times, while the film's effectively intimate finale also provides a unique audio experience that's balanced quite nicely. Optional English, Spanish and French subtitles are provided during the film and all applicable extras.

Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging

Seen below in DVD format, the menus are smooth and simple while the Blu-Ray interface follows the typical Universal format. This combo pack is housed in a dual-hubbed keepcase and includes a matching slipcover and Digital Copy redemption insert. The attractive cover artwork matches the original poster.

Bonus Features

Not much, aside from a Cast & Crew Commentary featuring writer/director Lorene Scafaria, Gail Scafaria (the director's mom), producer Joy Gorman and actors Patton and Adam Brody. I'll admit that I was skeptical about this commentary; after all, the two actors share maybe 15 minutes of total screen time and...well, the director's mom is there. It is enjoyable on occasion (Oswalt, as expected, is always fun to listen to), although there's plenty of back-patting and the stories are more personal than professional. Unless you're a die-hard fan of the film, this is one you can skim through instead of listen to entirely.

The rest of the extras are mostly promotional. An fairly weak collection of Outtakes is here (8 minutes), as well as a surface-level Featurette (4 minutes) and "Music for the End of the World" (2 minutes), in which cast and crew members share their Armageddon playlists. The latter two extras are also kind of clip heavy and "Music for the End" even repeats a few moments from the featurette. Overall, it's a feather-light collection of extras that won't really change your mind if the film didn't win you over.

Also, the obligatory DVD and Ultraviolet Digital Copy are included with this set, if that floats your boat.

All applicable bonus features are presented in 1080p and include optional subtitles. No stand-alone theatrical trailer has been included, though pieces of it are scattered throughout the main featurette.

Final Thoughts

I really wanted to love Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, based on its interesting premise and talented cast. Unfortunately, it's an undercooked and forgettable film that can't decide on "goofball road trip" or "focused character study" and ends up floundering in the middle. Steve Carell and Keira Knightley don't have enough chemistry to carry the story, though their individual performances have a few bright moments. This Blu-Ray serves up a nice A/V presentation, but the extras don't amount to much. Fans of the film may want to spring for this combo pack; new viewers should try before they buy. Rent It.

Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey from Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.
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