The ads for Seeking a Friend for the End of the World promised two things: 1) A cameo-filled darkly comedic look at the apocalypse and 2) A beach cuddling, manic-pixie comedic romance. It surely made for a fun trailer but what have the reviews been saying?
They’re mixed albeit generally fairly positive, coming in at 55% on Rotten Tomatoes and 60 on Metacritic. What it comes down to is almost every critic was onboard for the first promise but differed in opinion over the believability and viability of the second.
The Atlantic was won over, arguing, “The genuine sweetness of the friendship that develops between these two wins out over any of the movie’s failings.” The Observer agreed, suggesting that the film’s leads:
“…find a new definition of love that is irresistibly moving. If nothing else, see it for the two central performances. Keira Knightley finds a role without a trace of her usual glamour, while Steve Carell finally stretches his talents with more depth and quiet thoughtfulness than he’s ever been invited to previously display.”
However, they were in the minority. Even people who somewhat liked the movie saw a genuine flaw in the central relationship. A.O. Scott of the New York Times:
“The problem is more that after a sharp and promising start, [Director Lorene Scafaria] allows the movie to collapse into a mild, lump-in-the-throat romantic comedy that is not made significantly more urgent or interesting by the prospect of global calamity. On the contrary, it seems downright unfair that billions of people have to die so that a middle-aged sad sack can cop a cuddle with a cute, younger bohemian neighbor.”
Time Out took it a step further with saying, “the casting is spectacularly wrong.” And it’s hard to argue with this opinion. Frankly, Steve Carell is almost twice Keira Knightley’s age. It’s to a point that the movie looks like it was written for a 40-year old and a 33-year old but the casting went haywire.
That being said the casting for the smaller roles seems pretty spot-on. Cameos by Patton Oswalt, Rob Corddry, Connie Britton, Gillian Jacobs, and especially T.J. Miller (who’s described as “a hoot” by the Philadelphia Inquirer) were all applauded. The feeling is that most reviewers would have preferred a non-stop, star-studded comedic romp that contrasted the dire setting of the end of days. Which means we should expect rave reviews whenever Seth Rogen’s The End of the World comes out.