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Film / Safety Not Guaranteed

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Sounds like a reasonable ad.

Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You'll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. Safety not guaranteed.

A 2012 comedy film directed by Colin Trevorrow and produced by the Duplass Brothers. The above quote originally appeared as a classified advertisement in a 1997 magazine, and became an internet sensation when YTMND was popular. However, the film borrows only the ad and goes in its own direction.

Darius (Aubrey Plaza) is a recent college graduate who can't find paid work due to her cynical Deadpan Snarker attitude, but works as an unpaid intern for Seattle magazine. An advertisement has recently been placed in the magazine by an anonymous stranger looking for a partner with whom to time travel. Staff writer Jeff (Jake Johnson) proposes finding this stranger in order to write an article about it, though in fact he only wants to go because the address on the ad is in the same town as an old high school girlfriend.


As a result, most of his work is done by Darius, who finds the guy who wrote the ad, Kenneth Calloway (Mark Duplass). She joins him as a partner in the supposed time-traveling adventure and concludes that he is not pulling a prank. So is he crazy, or can he really travel through time?

Primer this film is not, but it does lampshade a whole lot of Time Travel Tropes.

Tropes Not Guaranteed:

  • And the Adventure Continues: Well, Kenneth and Darius presumably go somewhere...
  • Applied Phlebotinum: We don't know how Kenneth's machine is supposed to work, except that it involves lasers and possibly nuclear energy.
  • Becoming the Mask: Initially posing as Kenneth's partner candidate to get the story, she eventually starts to believe in him. And falls in love with him, apparently traveling back in time with him.
  • Advertisement:
  • Bollywood Nerd: Arnau. Also parodied when he doesn't know a thing about the physics involved in the time travel scheme. He's a science graduate, but not a physicist, after all.
  • Buffy Speak: Darius describing her weapon of choice, the flail, to Kenneth at the grocery store.
  • The Cameo:
    • Kristen Bell as Belinda
    • Also, Jeff Garlin as Darius' father, Mr. Britt.
    • John Silveira is the first person to check his mail at the post office boxes. The original idea for this came from Real Life in 1997 when Silveira had to fill in the last classified ads in Backwoods Home Magazine, so he wrote a joke filler: the same classified ad that sets this film into motion. Someone read it and sent it in to Jay Leno's "Headlines" segment. This movie was made as a "What if this ad were true?"
  • Casanova Wannabe: Jeff. He has some charm, but really not enough for the purpose.
  • Cassandra Truth: Kenneth's intensity and sensitivity leads one to believe he's crazy. He thinks he's being followed by government agents. He is, although it's not because they want to stop him from time traveling, but because they think he's a spy.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Arnau and Kenneth both.
  • The Constant: See Retroactive Preparation before.
  • Cool Boat: The boat that was turned into a time machine by Kenneth.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: Kenneth's time machine actually works. Or at least, it disappears; strictly, where it goes is left open.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Darius learns to get back in touch with her feelings.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Jeff. He asks his former high school girlfriend to go back to Seattle with him after they reconcile. She refuses.
  • Emotionless Girl: Darius starts the film emotionally numb from her mother's death. Her friendship and eventual romance with Kenneth helps bring some joy back into her life.
  • Gainax Ending: After appearing to be a quirky dramedy for the majority of the runtime, the film takes a sharp turn into straight sci-fi in the last few minutes when it's revealed that Kenneth actually built a time machine on his boat. It works, or at least does something weird. Kenneth and Darius disappear. Roll credits.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Darius is traditionally a boy's name (feminine form: Daria).
  • Genre-Busting: Most of the film is ambiguous about whether it's a Science Fiction film, or just a straight-up indie dramedy with an odd premise. It's both.
  • The Glasses Gotta Go: Jeff removes Arnau's glasses and replaces them with Cool Shades.
  • Homage: Darius's name is the male version of "Daria," which is best known as the name of the equally dour and deadpan snarker title character of Daria (who Aubrey Plaza actually played in a fake trailer for CollegeHumor).
  • In Name Only: Besides the ad, the film features nothing else from the original meme - namely the mullet-haired time traveler and the song "Push It To The Limit" from Scarface (1983).
  • Jerkass: Bridget's first scene is of her bossing Darius around because the latter is just an intern. She doesn't get much better.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Jeff doesn't believe that Kenneth can travel through time, takes the assignment basically so he can stalk his old girlfriend, constantly teases Arnau, and has Darius and Arnau do all of his work for him. However, he turns out to be a comparatively nice guy, with his teasing of Arnau mostly about getting him to become more outgoing.
  • Left Hanging:
    • The film ends with the time machine disappearing with Darius and Kenneth on board. If you were looking forward to seeing how their actions in the past affect the present, you'll be disappointed.
    • Also the Jeff sideplot, if you were expecting for him to come around and realize he was being a little too forward.
  • Manchild: Jeff slacks off of work, makes his interns do his job, goes on a vacation in order to find a past girlfriend, and spends his time drinking and picking up younger women.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Kenneth is essentially a gender-flipped version. (The Pathological Savant Man-Child?)
  • Mistaken for Spies: Justified. How many non-threatening people break into nuclear facilities?
  • Noodle Incident: The first time Kenneth time traveled ("I have only done this once before") is never actually elaborated upon.
  • Our Time Machine Is Different: Most of the film is ambiguous about whether or not the time machine is real. It is. And it's a boat.
  • Power Glows: The time machine.
  • Product Placement: Campbell's soup.
  • Real After All: After a whole movie going in different tangents that don't have anything to do with the time machine, and the possibility that the machine is just some scam, it turns out that the thing actually works.
  • Red Herring:
    • Arnau is a biology student working for a magazine. It doesn't come up as important.
    • Kenneth's ear detaching. He's not an alien or anything.
    • Darius says one of the people checking the post office boxes "Would go back in time to kill whoever gave her that haircut". Jeff's old girlfriend is a hairstylist in town, but this is never connected.
  • Retroactive Preparation: Kenneth keeps an old metal box in an old truck in the woods, so if he runs into trouble in the past, he can leave a note and find out before he even goes back. The box is empty.
  • Ripple Effect-Proof Memory: What Kenneth thinks is going on when he finds out that Belinda never died the way he remembers it.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Darcy has no lines, and is in the film for the sole purpose of being a sexual conquest for Arnau.
  • Seattle: The film is set in and around the city. Unusually, it's also filmed in Seattle and other locations in Washington state, rather than Vancouver, B.C. Doubling.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: Kenneth hopes to go back in time to save the life of his girlfriend. Darius tells him that she hopes to save her mother's.
  • Shout-Out: The time machine shoots flames out the back like the one in Back to the Future.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Most of the swearing in the film comes from Jeff.
  • Sliding Scale of Plot Versus Characters: Leans toward characters.
  • The Stakeout: The crew spends a lot of time following Kenneth and a few government agents in their car.
  • Time-Travellers Are Spies: Played with, the agencies thinks Kenneth is a spy not because he has knowledge about things civilians shouldn't know (at least not the entire reason), but mostly because he breaks into nuclear facilities.
  • When Things Spin, Science Happens: Kenneth's machine has a number of spinning parts.
  • You Already Changed the Past: Kenneth's explanation for why his story of his first girlfriend's fate is different from the reality. It's left ambiguous as to whether his story was untrue or he did fix the past.
  • You Need to Get Laid: What Jeff hopes to help Arnau accomplish.