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posted: 6/21/2012 6:00 AM

'Seeking a Friend' lost in dull characters, rushed romance

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  • Dodge (Steve Carell) meets Penny (Keira Knightley) 21 days before the Earth will be destroyed in "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World."

    Dodge (Steve Carell) meets Penny (Keira Knightley) 21 days before the Earth will be destroyed in "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World."

  • Video: "Seeking a Friend" trailer


In the apocalyptic romance "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World," the earth will be destroyed in less than 21 days and who are we worried about the most?

A cute little terrier doggy named Sorry, that's who.

Not Steve Carell's lethargic insurance salesman Dodge.

Not Keira Knightley's slightly unhinged singleton Penny.

Not Martin Sheen's remorseful bad dad.

Nope. As that 70-mile-wide asteroid strikes our planet and wipes out humankind -- as Mark Moses' TV anchorman keeps reminding us it will -- we wish we could save Sorry the dog, not whatevertheirnamesare, his human co-stars.

Lorene Scafaria, who penned the smart and edgy script to "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist," makes her directorial debut with "Seeking a Friend," an inauspicious project that makes us root for the end of days to spare us from wasting more time with two of the dullest people on the planet.

Dodge wears really square sweaters and has no clue why his wife of many years dumps him after hearing news of Earth's impending demise.

He doesn't know his New York apartment neighbor Penny very well. Or at all.

After her boyfriend breaks up with her, Penny winds up in Dodge's apartment, sleeping away a zillion hours of her last moments alive while Dodge can't wait for her to leave. "I can't spend my last month getting to know someone," he says.

What else does the sad sack insurance guy have to do? Sell policies for an apocalypse?

Then, with the world going crazy with fear, violence and looting, the two take off on a cross-country trip so Dodge can find his old high school flame, a never-seen Olivia.

One night after trying to poison himself (man, can't this guy do anything right?) Dodge wakes up in a park holding a leash to a terrier.

On a note is written a single word: "Sorry."

If you see "Seeking a Friend," you'll notice how Sorry the dog's affable personality and spot-on reactions to his human co-stars actually steal the movie from them.

Scafaria clearly wanted to create a modestly budgeted end-of-time romance that avoided the usual heroic protagonists (such as Bruce Willis in "Armageddon" or Robert Duvall in "Deep Impact") in favor of regular people coping with an unstoppable disaster.

She should have specified regular, interesting people.

Dodge and Penny live in a world of unrealistic restraint and civility compared to what happens in the superior 1989 drama "Miracle Mile" where Anthony Edwards tries to find his girlfriend before Russian nukes level Los Angeles.

As the world unravels, Edwards witnesses strangers desperately copulating on sidewalks, crazy guys shooting people for no reason, cars crashing and madness prevailing.

"Finding a Friend" only hints at mass pandemonium, because it wants to concentrate on the rushed romance between Penny and Dodge, who wind up like bar patrons choosing partners from whoever's available at 3 a.m.

If anything, Penny and Dodge should have spent more time hanging out with their far more engaging supporting cast members: Patton Oswalt as Dodge's sex-seeking pal, Melanie Lynskey as an available conquest, Chicago's William L. Petersen as a seemingly friendly truck driver and Derek Luke as Penny's survivalist ex-boyfriend.

By the time Martin Sheen shows up to apologize for being Dodge's terrible, runaway father, "Seeking a Friend" begins tying up all its loose ends into an unrealistically tidy bow.

Except this is certainly no gift, even if Sorry the dog is sure cute.

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