(Big Beach Films) The latest independent film from Big Beach Films (Little Miss Sunshine, Away We Go), Safety Not Guaranteed, tackles an emotional and outlandish feat: time travel. Derek Connolly explores the ideas of past regrets in this quirky, heartwarming feature film.
The film was inspired by a 1997 ad published in Backwoods Home, an Oregon-based magazine that promotes self-reliant living. (Think Better Homes, but instead of tips for picking the right curtains, it gives a “how to” on killing chickens for Friday’s dinner.) It reads: “Wanted: Someone 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. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.”
The original ad was a hoax. It was written as a joke by Backwoods Home Senior Editor John Silveira, who needed to fill space in the classifieds section. Since its publication, the ad has been used in internet memes and featured in Jay Leno’s “Headlines” segment. Connolly saw the ad differently. He envisioned a man behind the ad and wrote a script around this character, creating a scenario where the ad could have existed and where time travel may have been possible.
The adventure begins when a staff writer at the Seattle Magazine, Jeff (Jake Johnson), takes on a story that investigates the background of the time-travel advertisement. He calls for help in the form of two interns: Darius (Aubrey Plaza), a recent college graduate who thinks on a darker level, and Arnau (Karan Soni), a biology student looking to broaden his resume.
The three take a road trip to Ocean View, a small beach town that houses nothing more than a nautical-themed bar and a sea-side fair ground. Upon arrival, the story seekers make it their mission to track down the author of the ad, Kenneth (Mark Duplass). They find him working in a super market and are eventually able to find his house, which is located in the middle of an over-grown forest. Jeff, who proves to be not intense enough for the mission, puts Darius in the driver’s seat of the story and makes her Kenneth’s time travel partner. Darius then finds herself questioning if his intentions are either laugh-worthy or possibly inspirational.
Safety Not Guaranteed borders on the fantastical as its plot runs with the possilibty of time travel. However, Connolly and director Colin Trevorrow balance out the whimsy with nerd humor and romantic side plots that anyone can enjoy.
The film hosts a cast of comedic stars, including Parks and Recreation supporting actress Plaza and New Girl actor Johnson. The balance of dark sarcasm from Plaza and gritty humor from Johnson plays out well. Safety Not Guaranteed also features an up and coming comedic genius in the form of Soni. Last seen in MTV’s TV-movie Worst. Prom. Ever., Soni’s stellar work as the amiable Star Wars geek may serve to catapult his film career.
What makes this film memorable is not only the unique plot-line, but also the down-to-earth characters. Time travel may be on another level for most people, but Connolly is able to bring real-life situations to light with characters that everyone can relate to.
For Fans Of: Parks and Recreation, New Girl, Little Miss Sunshine, Away We Go
Why We Like It: quirky, funny, endearing, fantasy storyline