| June 21, 2012

I must warn you: This isn't your typical movie review column. My ratings system is simple: Is it worthy of a date night out at the movies? Blu-ray? Or is it just a bust?

We've all imagined the end of the world … fires, earthquakes, destruction and chaos. In "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World," director Lorene Scafaria paints a different picture, one full of life, love and laughs as our cast embarks on a final journey to find true happiness set against the epic backdrop of the end of days.

1998's "Armageddon" this is not. Bruce Willis is nowhere in sight to save mankind from the 70-mile-wide asteroid hurdling towards Earth. Instead, we find out during a radio broadcast that humankind’s last ditch effort to thwart the planet-killer fails. As if this news isn't bad enough for soft-spoken insurance salesman Dodge (Steve Carell), his wife walks out on him the moment it is announced. Ouch.

In the days following the news, we're treated to some very funny moments as Dodge spends time with his best friends Warren (Rob Corddry) and Diane (Connie Britton). They try to make the best of a terrible situation by doing everything we've ever been told is bad for you, and the rest of humanity seems to be following suit: PTA moms are doing drugs, kids are chugging booze and people are having orgies — all to the thrill of sex-crazed Roache (Patton Oswalt). This is not how Dodge is looking to spend his last fleeting moments on this planet though, and he chooses to navigate Earth's impending doom on his own … until he meets his neighbor, Penny (Keira Knightley).  

The extremely extroverted Penny is everything Dodge is not, but the unlikely duo decides to team up when a riot breaks out in their neighborhood. They head out onto the roads of New Jersey (of all places to be stuck in), where a bond between them grows, searching for long-forgotten family and lost loves from the past.

Carell is casting gold in this role. He pulls off the appropriate level of humor, but also shows a sensitive side to Dodge that comforts Penny throughout. Knightley, for her part, is also perfectly cast as Penny, delivering bipolar brilliance in the role of a woman who is all over the place while trying to reconcile what is to come. The actors may appear an odd combo, but work brilliantly together. As their conversations grow longer and their time left together shorter, stories about their pasts not only engage each other, but viewers as well. Solid performances are turned in across the board from Corddry, Britton and Oswalt, along with T.J. Miller, Adam Brody, William Peterson and Martin Sheen, to name a few.

In the end, I found it strangely refreshing to feel so optimistic about the final days of our existence, much like how Dodge and Penny's exploration ends with their outlook brightened.

The legendary band R.E.M. probably sums this movie up best in a line from their greatest hit:  

"It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine."

The Date Nighter Says: Do it! Humorous, engaging and moving — everyone can take something away from this one.  

Bonus "Speed" Date Nighter: Mini movie reviews in 30 seconds or less …

Kings, queens, bears, and bow and arrows … and yet somehow it manages to be boring! Our heroine uses magic to change her fate; I'd use it to change your movie selection.

The Date Nighter Says: Don't do it. A rare Disney/Pixar disappointment.

“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”
Before he abolished slavery, he eradicated vampires. But is honest Abe's secret past worthy of a future date night out?

The Date Nighter Says: Don't do it. Hit a local museum rather than watch this hokey twist on history.