With his first feature film, director Colin Trevorrow has crafted a quirky, independent dramedy that examines deep human issues while avoiding solemnity. The story – written by Derek Connolly – is a simple one. Seattle Magazine reporter Jeff Schwensen (Jake Johnson) discovers a classified advertisement placed by someone claiming to seek a partner for a time-travel adventure. The bizarre nature of the ad, including the disclaimer “safety not guaranteed,” convinces Jeff that it could lead to a story. So, he sets off with two magazine interns, Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni), in hopes of landing a feature.
The reporters learn that the advertisement was placed by Kenneth Calloway (Mark Duplass), a loveable oddball who swears he has unlocked the secrets of time travel. Darius asks to become his travel partner, without revealing her true identity, and much of the movie centers on the developing relationship between these two characters.
Through multi-layered storytelling, Trevorrow addresses complex issues, such as the role our past plays in determining our future and the natural human desire to return to perceived “golden days.” The movie also examines what it means to be a societal outsider.
“Safety Not Guaranteed” has flaws, most notably that Trevorrow and Connolly fail to explore the ramifications of Darius using deception for personal gain. Fortunately, plenty of movies have focused almost entirely on this theme, meaning its avoidance can be interpreted as daring.
A movie like “Safety Not Guaranteed” is largely dependent on tone and character development. That means the cast plays a huge role in the film’s success. Plaza, Johnson, Soni and Duplass infuse their characters with just enough nuance to avoid caricature, while simultaneously making their types recognizable and relatable. The upshot is a movie that most anyone can identify with and enjoy.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include a making-of feature.