Safety Not Guaranteed is the poster child for movies that you didn’t see in the theater but should really catch on DVD, Blu-ray, streaming, or any other home entertainment method. It’s joyful, funny, sweet and deserves a bigger audience than it has gotten.
Kenneth (Mark Duplass) is, let’s face it, a little nuts. Not only does he claim to be able to travel through time from his base in a small town in Washington state, but he knows there are people following him. He’s trying to get someone to go on his next travel through time in the most logical way possible, a print ad in a newspaper! The ad, “Wanted: Someone to go back in time with me….,” starts and ends with an ominous warning “safety not guaranteed.” Smelling a human interest story, a Seattle magazine writer and two of his paper’s interns head off to try to track down the person who placed the ad.
The writer, Jeff (Jake Johnson), and the interns, Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni), expect to find a nut they will be able to make fun of, but Kenneth is a little deeper and kinder than your usual time traveler wannabe. Although he blows off Jeff immediately, he takes to Darius, and the two begin training for the upcoming trek back in time. Kenneth’s reason for attempting the feat is not to make money betting on the Red Sox, or anything else for monetary gain. Instead, he wants to correct past problems with a girl. He thinks going back will fix the pain in his heart and that, combined with the fun and connection they have, keeps Darius playing along.
Darius has her own past problems that still haunt her, so while she can’t believe this could be real, she sort of hopes it is. It’s a great role for Plaza, who gets to be less of a cynical smart-ass than she is on “Parks and Rec.” She plays straight to the heart of Darius as a character, looking like she’s growing as well as having fun as she shoots guns, practices karate, and steals plutonium (or something) to help make the time travel thing happen. Despite being placed in a somewhat silly situation, she and Kenneth act the way two lonely strangers who are thrown together in a weird scheme would be expected to act. It’s not really real, but it’s as close as movies get without being boring.
Director Colin Trevorrow and writer Derek Connolly don’t make the Kenneth and Darius relationship the only point. Jeff is a douche-y guy who is trying to make up for past romantic failings (note the theme) with an old girlfriend in the area. As it turns out, he’s not always so douche-y. And Arnau goes from stereotypical nerd to…well, he’s pretty much a stereotype throughout, but his own romantic interlude is really sweet, just like the rest of the movie.
As far as the time travel goes, I’m not sure I agree with where they went with that wacky premise right at the end, but, surprisingly, it doesn’t really throw off the rest of the movie. Some of the craziest of plotlines—like Kenneth’s idea he’s being followed—turn out to be not so crazy after all. However, Safety Not Guaranteed remains mostly a meet-up story of two people who have some past heart hurts that they work through.
Safety Not Guaranteed made about 26 bucks in the theater (including my ticket), so I wasn’t expecting a DVD brimming with extras. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what I got. There are only two extras and one of them barely breaks the two-minute barrier. It was a disappointment, although not a huge surprise.
One thing that is a bit of surprise is the lack of a commentary. The director, Colin Trevorrow, speaks intelligently and passionately about his movie in the making-of featurette. Would it have been so hard to stick a recorder in front of him as he watched the film and played it for all of us? I’m sure the low budget filming would have made for some interesting comments. No such luck.
The aforementioned 15-minute making-of segment called “A Movie Making Mission” does a nice job of giving some background on the film. It does focus almost exclusively on the actors and performances, but that’s not unusual for this type of movie. The last couple of minutes throw-in some of the boat/time machine creation and transportation--which is very cool. It’s the sort stuff that actually explains “how to make a movie” and it’s great to watch.
The only other extra is “The Ad Behind the Movie.” It is about the “real” ad that inspired the movie. Of course, the real ad was just a joke. Although I think a few reviews of the theatrical release said the ad was real, the writer of the ad was an employee of the magazine and just threw it in there to fill up space before printing. He explains this and the subsequent reaction from the public. It’s interesting, but short.
Unless you think a trailer for Looper or that movie where Frank Langella teaches a robot to steal is an “extra,” that’s it for this disc. It’s still worth grabbing the movie, even if the picture and sound quality are pretty much what you could expect on a DVD.