Some how failing to gain traction at the UK box office Safety Not Guaranteed makes a long over-due appearance on the home entertainment market. And it’s a good thing too, for this is a film that will almost invariably find its fan base at home rather than in the big bad world of loud crunching popcorn and text-checking idiots that is the cinema. Why? Because Safety Not Guaranteed is geek-chic, it’s a film aimed at The Big Bang Theory crowd, for people who like their comedy a little quirky but with a lot of heart.
Darius (Aubrey Plaza) can’t remember the last time she was genuinely happy but she thinks it might have been when she was a kid, before her mum died. So when the magazine she works for asks for interns to help journalist Jeff (Jake Johnson) research a potential time traveler she jumps at the idea. Heading to a seaside town with Jeff and fellow intern Arnau (Karan Soni) in tow, Darius meets the reclusive Kenneth (Mark Duplass). Feigning interest in Kennth’s advert to join him on a time travelling expedition she is soon charmed by his simplistic belief that going back in time will make them both happy, but Kenneth has gained some unwanted attention from sinister men in overcoats and time is running out.
Safety Not Guaranteed is a wonderfully indie-spirited comedy that manages to address all manner of issues through interesting and entertaining character interactions. The four key characters all have issues relating to time. Darius struggles to remember a time when she was happy, Jeff is desperately trying to re-live his youth as a misguided attempt at avoiding his actual age and Arnau is terrified of living in the moment, always looking to the future and how he can better himself should it ever arrive. All the while Kenneth thinks that going back in time will erase the person he is now, a man he can’t quite look in the mirror and accept.
Writer Derek Connolly and director Colin Trevorrow, who, off the back of this film’s success were both recruited to bring Jurassic World to life, tell what could have become a complicated time travel movie in a pure and simple manner. The character interactions take centre stage, Darius in particular given numerous moments to shine, and as such it’s often warm and always leaves you with a smile.
The performances are all brilliant. Plaza, for whom Darius was specifically written, brings her brilliantly dry schtick from Parks And Recreation. Here it works even better as a defense mechanism with which to keep people at arms length. Duplass is always a fun screen presence, allowing Kenneth to remain questionably wacky while never losing sight of his warm naïve side. Soni could easily fit into any number of sit-coms with his nervous bird-like mannerisms as Arnau. He’s quiet and careful and you just want to pick him up and hug him, even if you know he’d hate it. New Girl’s Johnson meanwhile is on typically glib form. At first his Jeff is arrogant but he soon melts and shares some fun Jedi-like wisdom with the ever-cautious Arnau.
With a wonderfully nostalgic sensibly and a quirky sense of humour that is both affectionate and funny, Trevorrow and Connolly may not be able to guarantee your safety but they certainly promise heart and laughs.