Inspired by a 1997 classified ad in Backwoods Home magazine seeking a companion for a time-travel expedition, ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’ is a modest DIY hipster sci-fi comedy which coasts on a witty script and winning central turns. ‘Parks and Recreation’ star Aubrey Plaza plays Darius, a listless twentysomething intern for a Seattle lifestyle magazine who tracks down the crank who placed just such an ad, oddball amateur scientist Kenneth (mumblecore legend Mark Duplass). But if Kenneth is just crazy, why are there guys in black cars following him around? And what’s that strange noise emanating from his shed?
Like its gobby but directionless heroine, ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’ suffers from a lack of ambition: once the premise is established the script has nowhere to go. But Plaza and Duplass are enormously watchable, and there’s a sweet sadness in the movie’s focus on lost dreams and missed chances, and the truism that we all long for a time machine every once in a while.