Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Safety Not Guaranteed (Colin Trevorrow, 2012) -- C+

Another band of Mumblecore misfits is on the loose in Safety Not Guaranteed. This time, magazine rooks Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni) follow cocky editor Jeff (Jake Johnson) as they investigate a recent newspaper ad by Kenneth (Mark Duplass), who claims he can travel through time. Director Colin Trevorrow has difficulty visualizing the premise outside of some early (but predictably quirky) scenes with Darius (really?) voice-over, but little of this amounts to more than decorative stylistics. Perhaps what is most flattening about Safety Not Guaranteed is its lack of purpose and significance. It is network TV safe. There are no real stakes here - trivial insights and geeky ruminations are all Trevorrow can muster. The relationship between Darius and Kenneth is standard Florence Nightingale effect - their scenes together are always obscured by the film's declarative difference, its self-labeled "outsider" status. Aside from a rather hilarious late development between Arnau and Jeff, the former snatched away from his laptop for a much needed night of drinking and womanizing, Safety Not Guaranteed epitomizes bad zeitgeist filmmaking - ugly to look at and saturated with insignificant characters and actions, it begs for laughs from those who identify with the qualities possessed by its characters. Though the film may indeed get those laughs, what we have here is another conventional case of pandering.

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