Netflix Movie Month: "Safety Not Guaranteed" Review

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Based on an internet meme that actually appeared in a Backwoods Home Magazine classified ad almost two decades ago, this 2012 comedy film follows a magazine writer and two interns as they venture out to find a man who has posted an ad looking for a companion to time travel with.
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Rating: R
Length: 86 minutes
Release Date: June 8, 2012
Directed by: Colin Trevorrow
Genre: Comedy / Drama / Romance / Sci-Fi

His first venture into feature films and his fourth directing effort overall, "Safety Not Guaranteed" establishes Bay Area director Colin Trevorrow establishes him as a force to be reckoned with. The 2012 film pairs the writer-director team of Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow. The duo worked together as interns on "Saturday Night Live” and also collaborated on the 2005 TV movie "Gary: Under Fire.” Filmed in Seattle and Ocean Shores, Wash., "Safety Not Guaranteed” shows a little beauty of the Pacific Northwest along with the inventiveness of the region.

The plot follows a three-person team of Seattle magazine reporters as they set out to interview Kenneth, played by the perennial hipster actor-director extraordinaire Mark Duplass. Kenneth has taken out a classified ad in search of a companion to time travel with him in his self-constructed time machine. The text of the ad reads, "Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You'll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. Safety not guaranteed." Staff writer Jeff, played by Jake Johnson of "The New Girl” fame, leads the team on their adventure.

After the team arrives in the small town of Ocean View on the coast of Washington state, intern Darius, played by raven-haired indie actress Aubrey Plaza, focuses her attention on getting to know Kenneth and his time machine plans. Her male colleagues, Jeff and intern Arnau, focus their attentions on love and coming-of-age experiences of their own.

The movie draws viewers in as Darius and Kenneth learn about and grow attached to each other. After Kenneth decides to trust Darius, they embark on a series of physical and tactical training sessions in preparation for their impending time travel adventure. Viewers journey along with Darius and Kenneth and discover that they both have their own quirks and issues. There is an almost palpable sweetness to the pair as their friendship and relationship grow.  As with most relationships, some rough spots come up during their training sessions. Darius' original motive for approaching Kenneth, his sensitivity about a physical deformity, and his secrecy about a former love interest that he wants to search for pose issues in the development of their relationship.

The ups and downs of the interactions between Darius and Kenneth leave viewers rooting for the stability of their relationship as it moves through a little roller-coaster action. Darius approaches Kenneth with questions after she talks to Kenneth's former love interest, Belinda. Belinda is not dead after all, and she sheds some new light on the Kenneth's psychological and emotional stability.

Meanwhile, some scenes with Jeff and Arnau provide some tension-dissipating comic relief as Jeff discovers that his love interest, Liz, played by actress Jenica Bergere, has changed considerably from his earlier memories of her. Jeff struggles with the reality of how Liz has changed physically but also enjoys her talents as a cook and lover.

A little extra plot interest also appears when government agents begin following Kenneth. The two agents have information about Kenneth interacting with government scientists and have concerns that he's carrying out spy activities. The race against the clock is on as Kenneth continues preparing for his departure from the present. Then even as Jeff decides that he wants to make an effort at a relationship with Liz, Liz decides things would not go well with her moving to Seattle with Jeff and ultimately rejects his proposal. Jake Johnson yet again proves his comedy chops and likability factor as viewers watch his recovery from romantic rejection.

Viewers journey along with Jeff and Arnau before love finally wins the fight for the lasting power of Darius and Kenneth as Kenneth prepares for his time travel departure. Not to be outdone, the movie ends with a last-minute decision by Darius to accompany Kenneth on his time travel departure. She arrives just in time. With a little magic, Kenneth and Darius disappear along with the boat and time machine into their next adventure together.

As another winning effort by the writer-director team of Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow, "Safety Not Guaranteed” makes an excellent choice for some quality viewing time of talented indie actors in a quirky plot vehicle. This small-budget film holds its own against more expensive films and makes a lasting impression even with its short run time of a mere 86 minutes. Viewers enjoy the entertaining mix of comedy, romance and sci-fi elements as this inventive plot unfolds before them.

Rating: 3 out of 5