Director(s): Colin Trevorrow
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Jake M. Johnson, Mark Duplass
Run Time: 94 minutes
Theatrical Release: 06/08/2012
MPAA Rating: R
MPAA Explanation: for language including some sexual references
Common Sense Says: Fresh sci-fi comedy has strong language, a little raciness.
Common Sense Rates It:
Parents need to know
Parents need to know that Safety Not Guaranteed is a genre-crossing indie movie with elements of science fiction, comedy, romance, and drama. It has been a word-of-mouth success at film festivals and has the potential to become a long-running sleeper hit with high teen interest. Language is probably the biggest issue, with many (though not constant) uses of "f--k" and "s--t." Characters have sex and talk about sex, but nothing more than a kiss is actually shown. Characters also shoot guns at targets, but actual violence rarely gets worse than insults and arguing. One character seems to drink regularly, but his behavior is played for laughs. Two characters share a night of hard partying (one cigarette is shown) and wake up hung over.
- Families can talk about how sex is portrayed in Safety Not Guaranteed. What role does it play in the story and the characters' lives?
- If you could travel back in time, where would you go, and what would you do? Would you change a major historical event or do something more personal?
- Do you know anyone like Kenneth, whom everyone thinks is "weird" but could actually be a nice person? How are people like that typically treated?
- Why do you think Jeff drinks so much (and smokes) after getting rejected? What message does that send?
What's the story?
Darius Britt (Aubrey Plaza), who works as an unpaid intern at a Seattle magazine, has learned to view life cynically and with her guard up. 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?
Is it any good?
Writer Derek Connolly and director Colin Trevorrow make their feature debut with this genre-twisting sci-fi comedy, and we can only hope we see a lot more of them. Though Safety Not Guaranteed 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.)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 Plaza. She uses her trademark cynicism for laughs and 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 characters. Safety Not Guaranteed feels for all the world like a homemade movie, finished with guts and shoestrings, with a strong dose of love.
The Good Stuff
Messages: Safety Not Guaranteed rewards empathy and tolerance. It also raises the question of how we could possibly help others if we had the ability to travel back in time and right wrongs (i.e. regret).
Role Models: Darius is a positive female role model in many ways. She stands up for herself, shows bravery, and isn't easily perturbed. Best of all, she shows empathy and love for a societal misfit, someone who others consider a "weirdo." She stands up for him, even when most others don't.
What to watch out for
Violence Some sports clashes during a few shots of a football game. Characters also argue and insult one another, and in one or two scenes they grow angry. Two main characters practice shooting guns at targets but never at people. (There's no blood.)
Sex: Two of the main male characters have sex with women off screen. The main female character shares a passionate kiss with a man. Frequent sexual banter and innuendo.
Language: Language includes many uses of words like "f--k," "s--t," "vagina," "retards," "laid," "a--holes," "jerk," and "freakin'."
Consumerism: Cans of Campbell's soup are shown at length during a key scene.
Drinking, drugs & smoking: One of the major characters (a man around 40) is seen drinking in several scenes. He's thrown out of a high school football game for drinking beer. He also drinks heavily (and smokes a cigarette) during a "party" sequence, mainly to kill the pain of a broken heart. Two characters wake up to hangovers.