Sundance 2012: Colin Trevorrow's Awesome 'Safety Not Guaranteed'
by Alex Billington
January 23, 2012
"WANTED: Someone to go back in time with me. This not a joke. Must bring your own weapons." It all began with a classified ad, one actually placed in real life years ago, now it's a movie. Not just any movie, but a low budget indie that premiered at Sundance. It's called Safety Not Guaranteed (which is also the last line in the ad). But is there any actual time travel? Is it all just a hoax? Three magazine writers go to find out the truth and that's where things get really crazy. This wacky, fun, indie comedy starring talented actors Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson and Mark Duplass, while a bit slow moving, is amusing and awesome.
Wouldn't you want to find out if that ad was real? Did this guy really find out a way to build a time machine? And who the heck is he? Jake M. Johnson plays Jeff, a slack-off writer at a weekly magazine in Seattle, who takes on the assignment of finding out if the ad is real (with ulterior motives), and enlists the help of two interns (Aubrey Plaza and newcomer Karan Soni). They embark on a road trip up to the quiet town of Ocean View, Washington to investigate. From there they meet Kenneth Calloway, the mystery man played by Mark Duplass, and an adventure begins that will change their lives forever. As cliche as that sounds, this is a smart, terrifically entertaining film that veers more towards drama, and weirdness, than outright comedy.
Where this film truly succeeds is in the way it builds up the relationship between two of the key characters, Plaza and Duplass. It is their adventure together and their story at the heart of this that makes it much more than just a comedy about a wacky guy trying to build a time machine. While the film moves a bit slowly for the majority of it, focusing too much on the other weaker characters with subplots that didn't really have anything to do with anything, the pay off at the end is all worth it. Just know that you need to see it for the ending alone, and the hype it's going to build around that is exactly what should draw you in to begin with.
Safety Not Guaranteed is a solid debut for director Colin Trevorrow, featuring a great script by Derek Connolly with time travel, Napoleon Dynamite and the Duplass Brothers-esque tinges. Dangle a bit of time travel, lasers, potentially wacky guys (played by Mark Duplass, who I love anyway) and toss in the attractive and very talented Aubrey Plaza at the core, you've got a film that not only has mass appeal, but is immensely entertaining and wholly satisfying. It's an easy film to fall in love with and you won't stop smiling at the end.
Alex's Sundance Rating: 8 out of 10