Seeking a Movie for the End of the World

In my time here on Earth, I’ve lived through literally dozens of end-of-the-world predictions, from psychic Jeane Dixon and psycho Jim Jones to con man Harold Camping and the comet Hale-Bopp. I’m writing this blog on 12/21/12 with reasonable certainty that the Mayans didn’t know any more than the Moonies. (I know, I know, the day’s not over.)

But I have to admit that all the speculation is a fun distraction. Some of the Facebook and Twitter posts have been hilarious. I especially like the one comparing the markings on the Mayan calendar to those on an Oreo. (The Oreo is way cooler.) And this dumb joke made me laugh out loud:

Mayan Guy: Wanna get a beer?

Other Mayan Guy: I’m working on this calendar, but I guess if I don’t finish it won’t be the end of the world.

But mainly I’ve enjoyed the movies spawned by the scenarios. Two weeks ago, my wife sent me out to Redbox to “pick something up.” I was nervous because I was a Redbox virgin, but it’s pretty fool proof, even for a guy like me. As I scanned the selections, one particular title caught my eye: “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.” Starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley, it looked like the kind of quirky dramedy we could both agree on. (She won’t watch anything with karate, excessive bloodshed or zombies, which wipes out most of my go-to genres.) And the timing was certainly right.

As the movie opens, we learn that a massive asteroid named “Matilda” is racing toward Earth and all of our efforts to thwart it have failed. The world will explode in 21 days. (I’m not giving anything away here. This information is relayed during the opening credits as a radio DJ tells us, “We’ll be bringing you our countdown to the end of days, along with all your classic rock favorites.”)

It’s that juxtaposition of the extraordinary and the routine that really makes this film work, especially in the first half. Right away, we meet Dodge (played by Carell), a sad sack insurance agent whose wife leaves him after hearing the bad news. In short order, Dodge bumps into Penny (Knightley) a kooky longtime neighbor he’s never met. In fact, Dodge’s life is empty until the asteroid shakes everything up.

My favorite parts involve how different folks react to the oncoming inevitability. While thousands riot and loot and orgy, others continue to mow their lawns. At first, Dodge goes to his office and tries to act as if everything is normal, explaining to a customer over the phone, “I’m afraid the Armageddon package is extra, yes.” Later, after Dodge and Penny hit the road in search of his high school sweetheart (Penny: “Is she the one who got away?” Dodge: “Well, they all got away. But she was the first”), a small-town cop gives them a speeding ticket.

One terrific scene has them stopping at “Friendsy’s,” a TGIF-style chain restaurant still inexplicably open and serving strange combinations of whatever’s left. As the hard-partying server explains to Dodge and Penny, “”Guys, I’m rolling pretty hard right now, but if you two keep it super-positive I’ll bring you those M-slides and maybe an order of spin dip for the table.”

Part satire, part sci-fi, part roadie, part romcom, “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” is the perfect movie for, well, the end of the world. Or the day after.