Safety Not Guaranteed | Movie review
Aubrey Plaza is the highlight of this time-travel comedy.
It begins with a classified ad: The unnamed writer invites a reader to join him for time travel. Weapons are a must, and safety…well, you know the rest. In the real world, this listing would be dismissed as garden-variety crackpottery—but because Colin Trevorrow’s film unfolds in the universe of offshoot-mumblecore (whispercore?), the blurb inspires an adventure. Eager to head south and reconnect with an ex-flame, foppish Seattle journalist Jeff (Jake M. Johnson) convinces his editor (Mary Lynn Rajskub) the mystery man would make a great subject for an investigative piece. In a further sign of editorial munificence, he’s allowed to take two whole interns for the getaway. One of them, heroine Darius (Aubrey Plaza), will begin to worm her way into the world of the troubled—but brilliant?—self-styled time-hopper, Kenneth (Mark Duplass), who has a mysterious past and believes the authorities are watching him.
Where is this heading, you ask? The least one can say for this shaggy-dog comedy is that it keeps you guessing most of the way. But safety, if not guaranteed, is certainly telegraphed. That time travel? It’s mainly metaphorical, since all of the characters—especially Darius’s painfully awkward fellow intern, played by Karan Soni—are mired in arrested adolescence. Safety Not Guaranteed’s exceedingly slight goal is to remove them from their comfort zones. Johnson’s assholish mugging is good for a few laughs, but only Parks and Recreation’s Plaza, with her skeptical glare and attempt to feign spylike coyness at a supermarket, ever makes the proceedings feel dangerous.