Three skeptical Seattle magazine employees investigate a classified ad in which an eccentric man seeks a partner to travel through time with him. Together they embark on a journey that is one part hilarious, one part believing, and all parts touching. If you’re rolling your eyes at this premise, then you are a cynic like me who believes that most movies that are so outwardly quirky are probably also schmaltzy and even pretentious. While Safety Not Guaranteed dances right on that line between offbeat innovation (see Little Miss Sunshine), and too indie for its own good, it ultimately comes out an enjoyable watch that had the potential to be a lot better.
The first thing I noticed when watching this film was that the main character, Darius, was basically the geeky, shy, introverted guy’s wet dream. She’s beautiful but not socially outgoing. She’s smart but underappreciated. And best of all, she makes Star Wars jokes. It’s not a bad thing, as she is likeable and, for the most part, believable, but I couldn’t help but feel that the writers were a little lazy in writing her this way. It’d be like if it was Spongebob’s birthday and you bought him a Krabby Patty. Unimaginative, lacking in nutrients, but he’ll definitely appreciate it. Come to think of it, I think she might have been taken directly from New Girl, which would be appropriate considering it also starts Jake Johnson.
My sarcastic synopsis at the beginning is actually a fairly complete summary of the plot. Besides a few character-building moments of dialogue around campfires, in cramped hotel rooms, or in beds, the plot mostly revolves around Darius getting to know Kenneth, an incredibly strange and paranoid man who thinks he can build a time machine and take them both back to the year 2001. While the plot isn’t complicated, dripping with political intrigue, or brimming with bold twists, it serves to facilitate the film’s excellent dialogue and, which for me was the high point of the movie.
Characters speak in a way that might remind you of real conversations you’ve had, and you actually can feel the friendship building between the relatively small cast of characters. The dialogue lets you really get to know each one, and I genuinely liked all the characters (well except crazy Kenneth) and found them to be incredibly believable.
Around now you might be wondering why I didn’t absolutely love this movie and declare it perfect. If I had to choose one reason it would be Kenneth, the crazy time-traveler the plot revolves around. At first glance, he’s just one brain cell away from completely bonkers, but as you might have guessed, we get to learn about his past and unique perspective on life, and we begin to question if he’s crazy just because he’s different. The problem is that the answer to this question is a resounding “yes”. I won’t spoil all the details of the ending, but the short version is we get the super sweet bubble gum ending where he’s not crazy, just misunderstood, and we’re all supposed to go “awwww…” If this doesn’t sound disappointing to you then I can recommend Safety Not Guaranteed without hesitation, but I had hoped for a little more from a movie that’s best feature was its believability and relatability.
At the end of the day, it’s hard to point to specific flaws in Safety Not Guaranteed. The truth is, the things that bothered me about it were pretty important to the film, and I can’t really think of another way to end it. Without the ending they had, I can only imagine anticlimax. That said, it doesn’t really absolve the movie from its easy-way-out, and I would have preferred something a little more down-to-earth. Ultimately, I did quite enjoy watching it, and I suspect most people, especially those that love cute love stories, to enjoy it even more than I did.