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Movie ReviewsRating: 4.5 of 5 yaps

Safety Not Guaranteed

“Safety Not Guaranteed” is a movie that involves time travel, but it’s not science-fiction. Instead it’s a funny/sad piece about a bunch of people whose lives are brought together by the prospect of going into the past and what effect that possibility has on them.

Do people really travel through time? I won’t tell you, not only because I don’t want to give too much away, but, as I said, this question is really not critical to the movie’s considerable success.

This oft-delightful indie acts as a counterpoint to “Moonrise Kingdom,” the recent Wes Anderson film that I have criticized as being relentlessly quirky just for the sake of self-indulgence. The characters in “Safety” are also off-kilter and even weird, but watching them, one senses their strange behavior occurs because of who they are, not because they’re putting on a performance.

In a sense, the people in “Safety” appear odd because that’s our outward perception of their inner core, whereas the folks in “Moonrise” behave strangely because they construct and maintain an identity based on others’ reactions to their oddness.

Aubrey Plaza is probably known to most people as the super-acerbic girl on television’s “Parks and Recreation.” I’ve enjoyed her immensely on that show, but I’ve often watched her on it or the tiny supporting parts she’s had in movies and thought, “I’d love to see what she could do with a bigger canvas.”

Here’s my answer, and what a joy it is. There are notes of her character on “Parks” — a cynical young woman sullenly navigating a post-college landscape without much success or enthusiasm. But Darius is a much fuller, fleshier portrait with subtle layers. Here’s hoping Plaza has more roles like this on the horizon.

Her counterpart is Mark Duplass as Kenneth, who places an ad in the paper seeking a partner for time travel. “This is not a joke,” the ad insists. “You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.”

Darius, who interns at the fictional Seattle Magazine, is sent along with a veteran reporter and another intern to check out this odd announcement and write a story about the person behind it. Everyone expects it to be a big joke, but then Darius meets Kenneth and finds him, if not convincing, then utterly serious.

There are two kinds of weirdoes: those who are doing it for attention and those who think they’re passing themselves off as normal but aren’t. Kenneth belongs to the latter group. He works at a big-box store, wears an unattractive mullet, tools around in an ancient yellow Datsun 280Z and has weird conversations with his co-workers about our fixed perception of time.

After some hesitation, Kenneth agrees to take on Darius as his partner-in-training. Despite the fact that they practice shooting guns and his ramshackle house is filled with strange gadgets and drawings, Kenneth does not seem all that frightening.

He talks a lot of bluster about his smarts and skills, but it comes across as the innocent boasts of a 12-year-old who never grew up. When Darius asks about a rather strange feature of his anatomy, he goes into a sort of mental fetal position, and that’s when she realizes how vulnerable he really is.

Her ostensible boss is also undergoing a form of time travel, though with very different motivations and results. Jeff (Jake M. Johnson) is 40-ish and takes the assignment purely so he can reconnect with a hot girl (Jenica Bergere) he had a fling with back when. Along for the only partially willing ride is Arnau (Karan Soni), a timid, virginal nerd.

Just as Darius is realizing how much of a connection she has to Kenneth, things start to get serious when they break into a laser company, and men in black suits and sunglasses begin following them around.

“Safety Not Guaranteed” is a hard movie to pigeonhole. Director Colin Trevorrow and screenwriter Derek Connolly, both feature-film rookies, have concocted an offbeat treat that keeps on surprising.

4.5 Yaps

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10 Responses to “Safety Not Guaranteed”

  1. Joe says:

    Sounds like a different kind of comedy. How has this slipped under the radar? Definitely going to see this one, with talent from Parks and Rec n New Girl in it!

  2. Lindsay Drews says:

    Aww, I can’t wait to see this! The review just supported my thoughts about it! Aubrey Plaza is one of my favorite actors on Parks & Rec…even though they are all spectacular and that show is amazing…anyway…I will be seeing this ASAP!

  3. Monica says:

    I enjoyed this movie more than I thought I would. The review is right on and the end made me want to stand up and cheer.

  4. gwen johnson says:

    When I saw the trailer, I really expected to like this film. I was very disappointed, and could not see a reason for doing this film at all
    and I thought the actors were sad as well

  5. Leon says:

    When I saw the trailer, I really expected to like this film. I was not disappointed. It had a great heart. By that, I mean, although it was filled with many "off beat" and quirky characters, the film neither made fun of them nor their oddness. Very touching. What did surprise me, however, was how funny this movie was! I laughed aloud (maybe too loud) in many parts. As for the ending, I will say that it was befitting of all of the hard work the cast put forth, and it was what I expected and was hoping for.

  6. Rebekah F. says:

    I am excited to see this. I love Aubrey Plaza’s character in Parks & Rec and enjoy characters who are different and unexpected. I think the review has left me more intrigued to go check it out!

  7. sarah s says:

    This movie was not what I expected. I saw the trailer and thought it would be one thing, but seeing the movie it made you think about relationships and how if you could time travel what relationships would you try to save? The characters are somewhat believable and it turns into a love story with a few of the main characters. The ending to me left me saying hmm i wanted to know what happened in the time travel since that was what the whole movie was leading up to.

  8. Matt A says:

    I loved this movie. I was afraid how it was going to end n I’m sure it set some people off, but I thought the end was the funniest part of the whole film

  9. Thea says:

    This movie looks very interesting from the trailer. After reading the review, I think I’m gonna have to see it!

  10. Dolores Ray says:

    This was a very different and quirky movie. Especially the ending. Liked it because it was so different.