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SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (director: Colin Trevorrow; screenwriter: Derek Connolly; cinematographer: Benjamin Kasulke; editors: Franklin Peterson/Joe Landauer; music: Ryan Miller; cast: Aubrey Plaza (Darius Britt), Mark Duplass (Kenneth), Jake Johnson (Jeff), Karan Soni (Arnau), Jenica Bergere (Liz); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: R; producers:Marc Turtletaub/Peter Saraf/Stephanie Langhoff/DerekConnolly/Colin Trevorrow; FilmDistrict; 2012)

A zany indie sci-fi/comedy, that has a promising innovative premise about time travel.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A zany indie sci-fi/comedy, that has a promising innovative premise about time travel. But director Colin Trevorrow, in his debut feature, loses track of where’s he’s going with the far-fetched story and puts a slight damper on it with a terribly realized conclusion. It’s written by Derek Connolly, who tries to poke fun at both cynics and a daring inventive crackpot inventor, siding with the nutty individual who is willing to risk everything to make the world a better place for him to live in.

When the female boss of a Seattle magazine brainstorms for story ideas at a staff meeting, wise guy, crass, thirty-something bachelor reporter Jeff (Jake Johnson) suggests following up with a story of a newspaper classified ad someone named Kenneth (Mark Duplass) took out looking for a partner to time travel with in the machine he built. Jeff is allowed to cover the story in rural Ocean View, Washington with two twenty-something interns–the low in self-esteem, sarcastic, wise cracking Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and the nerdy, reticent, work-orientated but socially awkward Indian medical student Arnau (Karan Soni). They discover Kenneth is an eccentric working in town as a supermarket clerk. Kenneth dismisses Jeff as a partner, finding he has nothing in common with him. Thereby Jeff pursues the real reason he came back to his backward hometown was to see the woman, Liz (Jenica Bergere), who eighteen years ago gave him his first and best blow job. Jeff allows the interns to write the story, while he romances divorcee hairdresser Liz. Meanwhile Kenneth relates to the weirdness in Darius, and she passes all the ongoing interviews, plus passing his peculiar survival training regimen and helps him rob a medical research facility to steal lasers. They also become attracted to each other, as the partners prepare for the trip back to 2001. Darius is shocked to find that the paranoid Kenneth is actually being followed by two easy to spot government agents, who think he’s a spy for a foreign country.

The plot twists in many strange directions when the lonely Darius begins to fall for Kenneth, even though unsure if he’s a charlatan or a looney or actually built a time machine he believes can work.

The film’s fictitious ad (“This is not a joke. You must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed”) was based on a real one that appeared in the mid-1990s in Backwoods Home, a survivalist magazine.

Its cuteness of depicting a lovable wacko character living out a true believer Star Wars fantasy life and the engaging smart hipness depicted through a group of diverse characters with their own blend of strangeness and issues, could only carry the pic so far until it lost its edge and began to increasingly look rather thin. When it tried to show it sided with the weirdos, it paid the price for believing something that was hardly presented as convincing and the pic takes on an absurd descending ride to nowhere that couldn’t retain all the mumblecore film style good will and humor it initially built up.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”