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Movie Review: 'Safety Not Guaranteed' -- 2.5 stars

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Safety Credit: Aubrey Plaza, left, and Mark Duplass in "Safety Not Guaranteed." (Film District)

Safety Not Guaranteed
2.5 stars
Directed by Colin Trevorrow
Starring Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake M. Johnson
Rated R

Aubrey Plaza finally gets the chance to move beyond her familiar deadpan persona in "Safety Not Guaranteed," a tame indie with sci-fi leanings that nearly gets by on her unique charms.

Writer-director Colin Trevorrow smartly casts the "Parks and Recreation" star as a full-on romantic lead, and Plaza demonstrates the sort of complex emotional range that suggests we'll be seeing a lot more of her after the NBC show ends.

She's the primary revelation in this straightforward dramedy that's never quite funny or fast-paced enough to sell its whimsical premise. Plaza plays Seattle Magazine intern Darius, who accompanies reporter Jeff (Jake M. Johnson) and fellow intern Arnau (Karan Soni) on a trip to investigate a mysterious classified ad. Listed by grocery clerk Kenneth (Mark Duplass), the solicitation seeks a partner for a trip back in time.

Trevorrow deserves credit for delving into such a tricky, heightened world, even if the movie never quite gets a handle on Kenneth's distinct brand of oddball sensitivity. But the overall tone here hews toward sincerity when it should be screwball. Time travel isn't the best plot device to facilitate meaningful character drama. In "Safety Not Guaranteed," it's meant to bring together Darius and Kenneth - two outcasts coping with serious regrets - but it makes things hard to take seriously.

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