Safety Not Guaranteed

Quirky comedy involves a time machine — among other odd touches

Jun 20, 2012 at 12:00 am

Safety Not Guaranteed


Podcast wiseacre Adam Carolla recently coined the term "quirkedy" for a film that attempts to smooth over any gaps in comedic punch or dramatic heft with ample doses of quirky behavior and clever film craft. That definition nails the humbly likable Safety Not Guaranteed, a movie that is never as funny or sharp as it would like you to believe, but is made enjoyable by the charming cast and some odd little touches in the screenplay. 

Aubrey Plaza stars as the weirdly named Darius, another of the sort of introverted, snarky but lovelorn girls that Plaza almost exclusively plays. She's quite good at it, excelling at squeezing laughs out of awkward small talk, and drawing you toward a character who is outwardly pushing everyone away. 

She dwells in an alternate universe where alternative press magazines can afford to send three staffers on a lengthy road trip that is pretty much a total shot in the dark. Cynical scribe Jeff (Jake M. Johnson) goes hunting for the author of a classified ad seeking a "partner to go back in time with," mostly because he thinks it will be funny. Interns Darius and super nerd Arnau (Karan Soni) tag along mostly because they have nothing better to do.

They find the would-be Dr. Who, a painfully shy grocery clerk and tinkerer named Kenneth (Mark Duplass), holed up in a Pacific Northwest resort town that has seen better days, but also happens to be the home of Jeff's long-lost love. 

Darius is quickly enamored with their sweetly weird interview subject, and she begins to believe that he's just crazy enough to be telling the truth about his time-traveling intentions. Whatever gadget he's building in his ramshackle workshop has drawn the attention of the feds, and soon there is a literal, but relaxed, race against time.

Time travel presumably takes more energy than this movie is capable of generating. It is a very low-watt indie affair that's scruffy around the edges; the bit actors are clearly novices, and the production looks small-scale. Still the leads are just appealing enough to spend time with, whenever that may be.