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“Safety Not Guaranteed” – Early Review (POSITIVE)

June 20, 2012

If you could time travel where (or when) would you really wanna go? “Safety Not Guaranteed” begs that question to its viewers. Sure, it would be cool to time travel, who wouldn’t wanna see some gladiators duke it out? But really, ask yourself, what would you really want to do? Our heroes of the film have conflicted pasts they would give anything to go back and do differently, and it’s something not to better man kind, but something in their own personal lives; for love. Corny? Perhaps. What kind of love though?

Darius (Aubrey Plaza) is a hungry intern journalist working for nothing but experience at Seattle Magazine. Her boss, Jeff (Jake Johnson), wants to do a piece on a guy in Ocean View, WA who posted an ad in his local paper searching for a companion to time travel with, he specifically states ‘safety not guaranteed’. Darius, Jeff, and a shy, nerdy intern named Arnau (Karan Soni) venture out to Ocean View to track this shady character down. Darius discovers the identity of the mysterious time traveler, a stock boy named Kenneth (Mark Duplass). Kenneth is odd, eccentric, paranoid, and just plain weird, but they’re the aspects about him Darius finds exciting. Kenneth take Darius on a quest of sorts to complete certain tasks, more or less, training. This training is to prepare their impending launch date to depart from 2012 to the year of 2001.

The biggest aspect about this movie that caught my eye is the characters. These are somewhat basic flawed characters, yet for the theme of the film, and the overall goal that Kenneth is trying to do, makes it attention grabbing. Jeff’s real intentions to go to Ocean View was to find an old flame and see if he can rekindle something with her. Darius, feels guilty that she is the cause of her mother’s death, Arnau is living in the now, but doesn’t know how to go forward, finally Kenny is somebody who keeps to himself, it’s quite evident he has a checkered past, are his intentions to correct his mistakes or someone else’s? What I really liked is how Darius & Kenneth juxtapose Jeff & Arnau; Darius & Kenneth want to leave the present, to fix the past, to better their future. Jeff is hung up in his past that he has no direct line to his deserving future. By the looks of it, the arrows are going in opposite directions, yet they u-turn back around meeting an all-inspiring finale.

The performances are top notch here, especially Jake Johnson & Mark Duplass, who are without a doubt go above and beyond than just being scene-stealers, although Jake Johnson is well known for this. Mark’s portrayal of Kenneth is so endearing. He’s geeky/nerdy, but goddamnit you love him for that. His shy, nervous, paranoid persona makes him real, and he’s not paranoid (to a full extent) like the government is after me, but he’s more paranoid to the fact that he thinks you’re making fun of him, and that’s what he dislikes the most about people. Jake Johnson’s Jeff is quite the character, snarky when he needs to be, slightly crude, freethinking, but his love for the one that got away is something that shows interesting twists and turns in his personality. Aubrey Plaza is also very good here, even if she does come off as the same character from “Parks & Rec”, she has moments where she really shines.

First time feature director, Colin Trevorrow, and first time screenwriter, Derek Connolly have crafted something truly special. The trailer for this film advertises itself as a movie from the producers of “Little Miss Sunshine”, I’m happy to report that “Safety Not Guaranteed” is this years “Little Miss Sunshine”. I’m so mad at myself that I missed my open window to see this movie while I attended Sundance this past year! Jake Johnson told me to see it too while I was there! GAH!

GRADE: A

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