A big welcome back to Screenkicker Podcast survivor Denis Mallon with a review of Safety Not Guaranteed. Also look out for some Aubrey Plaza facts. One of them is made up, can you guess which? Take it away Denis!
The bad news: Another Jurassic Park movie is in the works, for release in 2015. Those of us who have endured the tedium of The Lost World, and the slapstick embarrassment of Jurassic Park 3, will know that it’s a bad idea.
The good news: On board to write and direct the new chapter in the series are the team behind excellent low-budget sci-fi Safety Not Guaranteed. Colin Treverrow and Derek Connelly are continuing a current trend for indie film makers handed the reins of massive blockbusters. I took it upon myself to get familiar with their debut and see what the fuss was about.
Safety Not Guaranteed is another indie movie with time travel at the centre of its plot. Wait! Come back, I know you’ve seen Primer, but this is completely different. Thankfully when watching SNG, you’ll spend a lot less time contemplating existential paradoxes and more time enjoying yourself.
The basis for the plot is quite simple. Seattle-based magazine intern Darius (Aubrey Plaza) is sent on an assignment with her sleazy boss and a socially inept fellow intern, to investigate a newspaper ad that reads simply:
Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.
On reaching the small town where the ad was published, the trio soon meet Kenneth (Mark Duplass), the mastermind behind the would-be mission. As Darius trains to be a potential time travel apprentice, she starts to find out more about Kenneth and his motives.
I think enjoyment of this movie is probably dependant on how you take to the relationship between the main characters. Aubrey Plaza is probably best known for Screenkicker fave Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, and TV’s Parks and Recreation. This is the first time I’ve seen her in a lead role, and she seemed like a perfect fit for the character. Starting off sardonic and sarcastic, her character’s cool thaws as she gets closer to Kenneth, and we can see a lot of depth and sensitivity coming out.
Mark Duplass, of brilliant sitcom The League, plays against type as shy loner Kenneth. Again, he inhabits the part perfectly, with a convincing portrayal of a misunderstood (but kind-hearted) outcast. It’s tough to balance awkwardness and sensitivity in comedy, but here the two combine to great effect.
Completing the TV comedy trio is Jake Johnson, of New Girl fame, providing excellent support as Darius’ boss Jeff. His character is a pushy, over-confident dick who gets all the best lines (eg. Darius: “What if he cuts me to pieces and eats me?” Jeff: “Then the story’s even better”).
Early on we see his true motives for the trip, to track down an old flame from high school, which leads in to a sub plot that neatly mirrors the movie’s general themes of regret. We get a concise summary of Jeff’s character as he’s asked what he’s doing with his life, replying “well, I have an escalade and a nice condo”.
The supporting cast is rounded off by straight-laced Arnau (Karan Soni), the third in the trio of reporters, who gets some funny lines and sort of a storyline towards the end. Generally, though, none of the subplots really go anywhere which is slightly disappointing.
Treverrow and Connelly have done well here to produce a smart and ambitious film on a meagre budget (estimated at just $750,000). Much of the budget seems to have gone on a large set piece ending that may be divisive for some, although it’s certainly memorable.
So do I still think Jurassic World is a recipe for disaster? It’s still a case of “Safety Not Guaranteed” for the new sequel, but this movie has done a lot to convince me that it could also be an unexpected triumph.
Did you spot the fake fact? It’s a tricky one. Thanks again to Denis, although i have to disagree with his comment about Jurassic Park 3, I think its pretty good. I’ll be requesting his resignation by the end of the week.