|Starring||Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Adam Brody, Rob Corddry, Connie Britton|
|Release||13 JULY (UK) Certificate 15|
It's easy to sound cynical about a film that so easily falls into that movie subgenre of 'sappy people have real feelings and stuff', but the truth is that this is an affecting and affectionate tale that plays trendy indie chords on your heartstrings. It may not always seem genuine (Penny's character-defining collection of vinyl records might as well be a tin box of childhood toys, or a Polaroid camera, or even a skateboard with 'vintage' written on it), but the warm, angsty tone still hits the sweet spot.
Where Steve Carell downplays his usually madcap antics, instead giving us his 'serious dramedy face', Knightley overplays her kook, Penny. At first, her over-friendly, heart-on-her-sleeve hippyishness seems cloying and desperate but, as the story progresses, Penny's child-like naïvety shines through and Knightley gets several brilliantly acted moments that help remind us of the gravity of the situation (and indeed of the meteorite).
The film is helped along the way by a whole host of bit-part characters providing the bigger laughs. From Rob Corddry's stopped-giving-a-fuck best friend, to Adam Brody's heartbroken boyfriend, to a whole host of minor characters that dip in and out of the screen to each provide one more consequence of the forthcoming Armageddon, the film is packed with (mostly gallows) humour. Unfortunately, on occasion, this need for funnies gets the better of the script and, for example, a farcical scene where Penny and Dodge visit a burger-bar-turned-orgy-house sits uncomfortably in a film that otherwise draws slow laughs from sharply observed character behaviour. And that's taking into account the burger bar's welcome cameo from Gillian Jacobs.
Overall, it's an enjoyable, if typical, comedy drama. The odd bits of misplaced surreality and emotional manipulation are far outweighed by the great central performances and cameo conveyor-belt. More importantly, the film just about delivers an ending that acts as a worthy pay-off to the previous 90 minutes of foreboding. Although anybody rooting for Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck and the gang to save the day will, like me, be bitterly disappointed.