Combustible Celluloid
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With: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake M. Johnson, Karan Soni, Kristen Bell, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Jeff Garlin, Jenica Bergere
Written by: Derek Connolly
Directed by: Colin Trevorrow
MPAA Rating: R for language including some sexual references
Running Time: 94
Date: 01/22/2012

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Time Enough

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Writer Derek Connolly and director Colin Trevorrow make their feature debut on the genre-twisting sci-fi/comedy movie, Safety Not Guaranteed, and we can only hope we see a lot more of these guys. Though the movie is comfortable and pleasing, it's also amazingly fresh, concentrating on its characters and emotions rather than on a collection of visual effects, genre staples or gratuitous thrills. (The movie's lone car chase happens well below the speed limit.)

Darius Britt (Aubrey Plaza) has learned to view life cynically and with her guard up. She works as an unpaid intern at a Seattle magazine. Reporter Jeff (Jake M. Johnson) pitches an unusual story about a classified ad: a man wants to go back in time and seeks a partner. And so, along with Jeff and another intern, Arnau (Karan Soni), Darius heads for Ocean View to meet the time traveler, Kenneth (Mark Duplass). Kenneth immediately sniffs out Jeff as a fake, but he clicks with Darius. As they prepare for their trip, Darius finds herself growing attached to the weird misfit. But is he really crazy, or can he actually travel through time?

Die-hard sci-fi fans may be disappointed that time travel isn't really part of the main plot, but viewers should clue into the star performance by Aubrey Plaza. She uses her trademark adorable cynicism for laughs, but eventually softens up in a genuine way, bringing her heart into her role. The rest of the cast, including recognizable faces in tiny roles (Kristen Bell, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Jeff Garlin, etc.), brings similar zing to their roles. It feels for all the world like a homemade movie, finished with guts and shoestrings, with a strong dose of love.
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