Sam Strange Remembers: SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED

Shit gets dark in this crowd-pleasing comedy.

I have a fifteen year old girlfriend in one of the states where that sort of thing is no big deal, and she keeps showing me these indie comedies her and her friends are into where instead of having jokes, everyone is real sad all the time. I didn't really understand the appeal, but the tactic appeared very popular with her and her young friends, so I figured, "Hey, I can do that!" and I was right.

Safety Not Guaranteed is mostly about this lady named Darius Butt. She looks really sad and bummed out, but she's not. Inside, she's actually a giant ball of non-cynical hyperactivity like her mother, Olive Oil. We just don't easily see that side of her, mostly because her father was Droopy Dog.

Darius is young and unsure of what she wants to do with her life, which, like most people with this affliction, she will never get over. At age 30, she's still at the interning stage of her career, this time at a hip, young, and urban magazine called "Hip, Young, & Urban Magazine," one of only two magazines still being published in America, the other being "Sity Folk Cun Suck Dees Nutz."

Like all magazine editors in chief, Darius' boss is an angry, humorless lady with no capability for any happiness other what she can scrape up from being a workaholic. In a writer's meeting, she grumpily complains that every story pitch she hears is boring and that their readers need something more. The whole staff is stuck without ideas, though. Suddenly one slimy party animal reporter guy (Rafe Spall) brings up an ad he happened to come across written by a guy who is looking for time travel companions. The magazine editor likes this idea. Obviously, it won't end in time travel, but it will give her hip, urban readers a real wacko to make fun of.

The wacko lives a couple towns over, so the character profile that should take one afternoon suddenly becomes a week long trip with Rafe Spall, Darius, and an Indian Intern that will easily cost the magazine a couple thousand dollars in hotel fees and meal per diems for a piece that will ultimately use up 1.5 pages.

Rafe Spall, Darius, and the Indian Intern go to the small town to find this guy. But instead of doing that, Rafe Spall tells us he went to high school in this small town, and his old girlfriend still lives here. He wants to see if his booty call privileges are still active more than a decade later. Having explained this, he completely abandons his magazine writing job.

The Indian Intern wants to study and hates going outside, so that leaves only Darius to investigate the time travel guy. Finding him is easy; she just waits by his post office box for him to pick up his porn. Or so she thinks. It turns out her plan worked, but instead of picking up mail order porn movies, his post office box is filled with videos on how to be a bigger, more sensitive sweetheart to whichever lady finally lets him love her.

Not that the time travel guy is a slam dunk or anything. He's a goofball, marked with countless goofball indicators. He has a mullet because mullets are funny. He drives a muscle car because muscle cars are funny. He talks like Dwight Schrute because that character is funny. He has a bunch of guns in his trunk because paranoid schizophrenics with weapons are hilarious.

It's easy for Darius to get close to Kenneth because she's a pretty girl and he's a desperate wacko. But what she doesn't expect is to fall in love with him in the process. See, Kenneth is just so open and vulnerable and sweet, that it's hard not to want to protect him from the harsh realities of life. This, despite the fact that his face looks it was scalded with acid and weathered by multiple sandstorms. We got this effect by hiring an 80 year old man to play Kenneth and de-aging him with makeup.

Meanwhile, Rafe Spall finds his old booty call girl. At first he is aghast at how fat and ugly she has become, and he gets drunk to deal with it. Then he takes another look. This time she's back to her former beauty. Suddenly, Rafe Spall realizes that he's loved her his whole life, and the only reason he's here is to meet up with her again. He just didn't know it until he knew it.

He tells her this, and they spend that night making sweet love to one another. The next morning he asks her to move in with him. Unfortunately, she has no interest in that and tells him to leave so her next ex-high school sweetheart who abandoned her for a "better" life in the city can return for a night of passionate nostalgic sex with the true love of their life, thus teaching them the true meaning of regret. Her victims number in the thousands.

Speaking of regret, Kenneth and Darius begin building their time machine in earnest. It requires lots of rubber cement and colored pipe cleaners, as well as some metal tubes that must be first hidden on a military base, then stolen from the same military base later that night.

While they do all this, they have a number of hilarious conversations, particularly when discussing why they want to go back in time. Kenneth tells the story of how he got drunk and accidentally drove his car into his fiancé's living room, pinning her beneath his wheels. He goes on to explain how she probably would have lived but he cut her in half when he tried to back out.

Darius then tells an equally funny story about how her mom was abducted at a convenient store and murdered. To make things even more side-splitting, she was mean to her mother the last time they talked on the phone. You know what they say: "Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into and open sewer and die."

As for Rafe Spall, he's not doing so well. He gets the Indian Intern and a bunch of fifteen year olds drunk (in a state where they're not okay with that). He doesn't score with any of the girls, but the Intern does, and it's like the ultimate burn. So he gets in his car and drives to his booty call's house. But because he's drunk he accidentally drives into her living room and pins her to the ground. When he attempts to back out, he cuts her in half.

Across town, Kenneth and Darius are just about ready to turn on their time machine and go save their respective loved ones, even though they really only love each other at this point. Just when they're about to get the thing going, Rafe Spall shows up. Darius takes a long, understanding look at Rafe Spall, then Kenneth, then Rafe Spall, then Kenneth again. Before she can put it 100% together, the space time continuum collapses into itself and the entire universe ceases to exist. You may not get the full effect at home. This film is really more of a crowd pleaser.

(three stars)