Movie Review: “Safety Not Guaranteed” – This Comedy Guarantees Laughs

Written by Emily McWilliams July 30, 2012

“Safety Not Guaranteed” may be one of the more unusual comedies to have come out this year, but this fun and offbeat film features a promising young cast and production team.  Aubrey Plaza, best known for her deadpan sarcasm on TV’s “Parks and Recreation”, proves that she is more than capable to star and lead the movie’s plot as she combines humour with genuine empathy.  Mark Duplass also stars in the film and balances his eccentric (and nearly scene-stealing) performance with Plaza to create a strange and highly entertaining companionship that is rarely presented on screen.  The rest of the cast, Jake Johnson and Karan Soni, round out this wonderful collaboration of actors as they each contribute to the film’s comedic and heartfelt moments.

“Wanted: Someone to Go Back in Time With Me”

The film opens in a Seattle magazine office where Darius (Plaza) works a thankless job as a student intern.  At their morning meeting, staff writer Jeff (Johnson) pitches a story about a classified ad seeking someone to accompany the ad-placer back in time.  The ad recommends bringing weapons and warns any inquirers “safety not guaranteed”.  Jeff, Darius, and another intern Arnau (Soni) set off to find the person who wrote the ad to see if their claims of time travel are real and then plan on turning the story of their findings into an article. Using Darius as bait, the trio finds the time traveler to be paranoid and reclusive Kenneth  (Duplass).  Darius continues to work undercover, gaining Kenneth’s trust and undergoing training for their time travel mission.  However, as she spends more time with Kenneth, Darius learns that there may be more to this oddball than a nerdy exterior.  Besides being a kind and caring person who Darius feels a connection with, Kenneth might actually have the ability to go back in time.

A Quirky Comedy With Heart

Despite the gimmicky sounding plot, “Safety Not Guaranteed” is surprisingly dimensional and layered.  Subplots in the movie involving Jeff as he rekindles a teenage love strengthens the film’s themes of regret and the past. The ability for moments like this in the film to be played out with the same comedic tone as the rest of the film and with the appropriate level of drama while not distracting from the main storyline was a risky move that worked for newcomer director, Colin Trevorrow.  The screenplay was sharp and perfectly interpreted and embodied by the actors, which was impressive considering how much of the movie depended on the pacing of comedic moments.

Summer’s Best Kept Secret

The best aspect of “Safety Not Guaranteed” is that this is a magical type of movie that truly keeps you guessing the whole time.  It was wonderfully unpredictable and surprising; a welcome relief from comedies that rely strictly on swearing and bathroom humour.  While some may be frustrated with a few loose ends that aren’t entirely wrapped up, I felt that these further contributed to the film’s mystery.  Take a chance and see “Safety Not Guaranteed” – this original comedy is a great adventure.

My Rating: 8/10

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