One of my most-anticipated films heading into Sundance was Colin Trevorrow‘s Safety Not Guaranteed. Parks and Recreation star Aubrey Plaza was getting a lead role, paired with indie staple Mark Duplass, as well as a plot with a time-travel twist. While it didn’t live up to my expectations, Safety Not Guaranteed is a light, entertaining dramedy that could have used more originality to stray away from its predictable nature.
Darius (Plaza) is an intern at Seattle Magazine, who is sent on a road trip with a reporter (Jake Johnson, who steals the show here) and a fellow intern (Karan Soni). Their mission is to investigate a classified ad which requests a person is to go on a time-travel mission, with their own weapons and safety not guaranteed, of course. They encounter Kenneth Calloway (Duplass), an eccentric man who looks permanently stuck in the time period he so desperately wants to return to.
As motivations get uncovered and different subplots correlate, we learn the overarching message of what happens when one returns to the past to find love (whether it be through time-travel or other, realistic methods). It is difficult not be charmed here, but one wishes the characters had more depth. Plaza proves herself in the lead role, but the relaxed nature of the filmmaking make any big emotional beats register lightly.
With a low-budget, one isn’t expecting the time-travel elements to be grand, but compared to Johnson’s alluring subplot, a more fleshed out sci-fi backdrop on Duplass’ end could have went a long way. Safety Not Guaranteed is a diverting experience that is easy to go down, but with little impact felt. Check out more thoughts below in our video review.