Sundance 2012: ‘Safety’ offers time-travel heart, laughs


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Darius Britt (Aubrey Plaza) in “Safety Not Guaranteed” isn’t going anywhere fast. She can’t even get a job waiting tables at a diner—“You’re just not a quality hire,” the manager tells her—and her own dad says of her stuck-in-neutral life, “It’s like there’s a cloud following you.”

Her internship at a Seattle magazine doesn’t look promising, either, until she’s asked to help lazy, misogynistic writer Jeff Schwensen (Jake Johnson) look into who might have placed a strange classified ad looking for a time-traveling companion who “must bring your own weapons,” with the warning, “safety not guaranteed.”


(The movie is based on an actual, but prank, notice that ran in Backwoods Home magazine in 1997, and its author, John Silveira, has a cameo in the film.). The author of the ad, Kenneth Calloway (indie filmmaker Mark Duplass) may not be playing with a full deck, but there’s something charming about his paranoia and plans, including ninja-style training.

PHOTOS: The scene at Sundance 2012

Before long, Darius is not only looking at Kenneth with more than journalistic curiosity but also considering trying to travel back in time with him. “Safety,” whose whimsical style recalls ‘Juno’ with a sci-fi twist, gives Plaza a good chance to expand her career beyond second-banana roles in movies like “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” and the TV series “Parks and Recreation.”

Written by Derek Connolly and directed by Colin Trevorrow, “Safety Not Guaranteed” enjoyed an animated reception in its premiere dramatic competition screening Sunday night, and several buyers leaving the theater expressed interest in buying the film.

Connolly admitted that he toyed around with several scenarios about whether the time machine would even work (you’ll have to see the film to find out which one they chose).

Trevorrow said he was less interested in the ad itself than using it as a starting point for a love story with time travel at its center. “Even crazy people deserve to be loved,” Trevorrow said. “So find your crazy person and march through time with them.”


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Second for second, the most cinematic experience in Sundance

--John Horn