The Sundance Review Revue: SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED
Nothing in this world is guaranteed, especially not a positive response at the Sundance Film Festival. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED came to Sundance with a great premise and a better cast, but films with more impressive pedigrees riding bigger waves of buzz have crashed and burned in Park City.
Fortunately that didn’t happen this time, as SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED is getting some of the best reviews of the festival. That killer premise involves a real life classified ad from Backwoods Magazine in which a man asked for someone to go back in time with him (“Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed,” it read). In reality, the ad was a goof by one of the magazine’s editors desperate to fill an empty classified section. In the film, the ad is sincere, placed by a guy named Kenneth (Mark Duplass) in the hopes of recruiting a partner for a time travel adventure. The magazine sends a reporter (Jake Johnson) and several interns (including Aubrey Plaza) to find Kenneth and find out the truth about his offer.
The truth about the film’s screenings at Sundance is overwhelmingly positive. Writing in Variety, Justin Chang said SAFETY “serves up some nice soul-searching moments alongside a steady stream of laughs.” He had good things to say pretty much across the board, praising Duplass and Plaza as an unlikely but charming onscreen duo, and Johnson as a scene stealer. “If the film’s crazy conceit finally seems more sweetly amusing than brilliantly inspired,” he added, “its emotional sincerity is never in doubt.”
There are very few SAFETY doubters in the Sundance press corps. Anthony Kaufman from Screen Daily said the film’s creators, screenwriter Derek Connolly and director Colin Trevorrow, “have a knack for comic zingers and satisfying sight gags,” and expects the duo to have a long career in Hollywood. Peter Sciretta from /Film, who’s been calling SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED his favorite film of the festival so far on Twitter, described it as “the most ridiculous yet awesome misfit time travel relationship comedy ever made.” And Sean Means from The Salt Lake Tribune gave the film four stars and joined the chorus of supporters praising it for its blend of humor and heart.
The closest I’ve come to finding a negative review so far is Alex Billington’s over at FirstShowing.net — and he rated the film an 8/10 and called it “awesome.” But he also criticized SAFETY’s pacing, saying that it “moves a bit slowly for the majority of it, focusing too much on the other weaker characters with subplots that didn’t really have anything to do with anything.” But those are mostly quibbles — and he also insisted that the payoff, whatever it is, is incredibly satisfying.
Of course, all those positive reviews doesn’t mean you or I will love it too. Nothing in this world is guaranteed, after all. But I would say me seeing this movie the first chance I get is pretty damn close. Twitter, take us out:
“Seriously: I’ve never heard cheers of Joy for a narrative at Sundance like I just did for SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED.” — James Rocchi, MSN Movies
“SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED is so charming. The cast is great, Aubrey Plaza in particular. #sundance” — Erin McCarthy, Popular Mechanics
“SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED is hilariously written, directed & acted. Traces of NAPOLEON DYNAMITE meet PRIMER propel it to pure entertainment.#fb” — Jeff Goldsmith, The Q&A
“I kinda loved SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED. The most ridiculous yet awesome misfit time travel relationship story you’ll ever see. #Sundance” — Peter Sciretta, /Film
“The half of SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED with Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass is funny and enjoyable. But it’s only half the movie. #Sundance” — Matt Patches, Hollywood.com
To find more Sundance screenings of SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED, go to Sundance.org.