Review: Safety Not Guaranteed

PLOT: Darius (Aubrey Plaza) is an unpaid, much abused intern at a Seattle magazine, who’s sent out with a veteran writer (Jake M. Johnson) and another intern (Karan Soni) to check out an odd classified ad, seeking a partner for a “time-travel adventure- safety not guaranteed”. Turns out, the ad was placed by Kenneth (Mark Duplass); an eccentric supermarket wage slave, and only Darius is able to get close enough to investigate his time-travel claims. Along the way, the two just might fall in love, but is Kenneth actually crazy, or has he actually, somehow, figured out how to travel through time?

REVIEW: SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED is yet another Sundance crowd-pleaser, and as such, recently got picked up by Film District for a theatrical release. Hopefully, a full-blown theatrical release does, in fact happen, as SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED really does feel like a vintage-style Sundance crossover hit. It’s charming, accessible, and features two dynamic lead performances by actors that are just on the cusp of breaking out.

Aubrey Plaza, currently one of the highlights of the amazing PARKS & RECREATION (again, my choice for the funniest show on TV) makes for a charming lead as our heroine, Darius. Granted, Plaza plays to type here, with her being more than a little sarcastic throughout, complete with lots of eye rolling and mock incredulity. However, this is not just a retread of her PARKS & REC character. Instead, Darius is a lot more layered, and possibly even wounded, than you’d think- with her, early on, telling a heartbreaking story about how her mother was killed in a violent robbery, right after Darius had mocked her for some trivial reason. As such, the character is a lot nicer than the one she usually plays, and once she hooks up with Kenneth, she never makes fun of him, even when he’s making the ridiculous (?) claim that he can travel through time.

While the film starts off as a quirky comedy, it very quickly transitions into something a lot more genuine, and even heart-warming, which is something I was not expecting from this going in. The heart of the story is the relationship between Darius and Kenneth, and it needs to be said, Duplass and Plaza have some mighty fine chemistry.

While Duplass is mostly known as a director (who, along with his brother made CYRUS, JEFF WHO LIVES AT HOME, and even wrote this year’s Sundance horror entry, BLACK ROCK- directed by his wife Kate Aselton), and he’s excellent as the odd, but likable Kenneth, who, importantly- tips the scale from creepy to quirky-charming. His Kenneth might be crazy, but Duplass plays it in a way that, to his credit, makes whether or not he can actually time-travel or not harder to figure out than it might have been otherwise (one thing’s for sure- by the end you’ll WANT him to be able to time travel). Together, Plaza and Duplass make an appealing pair.

Besides the two leads, Jake M. Johnson, who pops up a lot on Funny or Die, has a really fun part as Plaza’s writer-boss, who’s initially a total asshole (in a hilarious way), but eventually learns a thing or two thanks to his own subplot with a local girl, not to mention his mentoring of the shy intern Arnau (a hilariously deadpan Karan Soni)- which may or may not be a positive thing, with his main advice to him being the proper way to seduce girls from the local high-school.

Suffice to say, I had a ball with SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED, as this could potentially be a crossover hit for Plaza and Duplass if enough people see it. It really was one of the more pleasant and life-affirming films I saw in Park City this year, and every once in a while it sure is nice to see something that just makes you feel good about things. Crazy, eh?

Review: Safety Not Guaranteed




About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.