He’s got a way with dinosaurs but does he have a way with the Force?
Thanks to a little movie titled “Jurassic World,” we’ve all seen what director Colin Trevorrow can do.
The filmmaker, who shepherded the “Jurassic Park” reboot to a billion dollar box office — it’s the third highest-grossing movie in history — has been entrusted with an even greater challenge, directing “Star Wars: Episode IX.”
Trevorrow has certainly proved his ability to deliver action and adventure on an epic scale, oversee a massive production involving intricate visual effects, and successfully overcome the risks of reintroducing a favorite franchise to moviegoers new and old.
But is he up to the task of delivering the final installment in Disney’s new Star Wars trilogy?
Strangely enough, it is Trevorrow’s little-seen first feature that inspires confidence that he just may be the man for the job.
A weirdly irresistible sci-fi rom-com with a wildly satisfying twist, 2012’s “Safety Not Guaranteed” demonstrates that the director is resourceful when it comes to low-budget special effects, but more importantly, he’s a big geek with a firm grasp of story and character, and tons of heart.
That’s just what “Episode IX” will need.
If you haven’t seen “Safety Not Guaranteed,” you’re seriously missing out. In case you’re still not convinced, here’s a glowing review of the film.
Safety Not Guaranteed, 2012
R (language including some sexual references)
(The movie is available to stream via Amazon.)
The weird and whimsical “Safety Not Guaranteed” is a pleasantly oddball romantic comedy with science-fiction undertones designed to appeal to the secret — or not so secret — geek in all of us.
It’s one of a line of films by brothers Mark and Jay Duplass (the siblings helped produce the movie and Mark stars in it) that are irresistibly sweet-natured, completely devoid of cynicism, and surprise us by going in wonderfully unexpected directions.
“Safety” is laced with quirky, subtle, slightly awkward humor and it’s unabashedly guileless when it comes to its time travel plot, even though it isn’t really about time travel.
The comedy is a great showcase for Audrey Plaza, of TV’s “Parks & Recreation,” who employs her signature deadpan sarcasm to full effect as Darius, a disillusioned Seattle magazine intern who always expects the worst in life.
When we first meet her, she’s in the middle of a job interview at a chain restaurant and her cluelessly frank answers to the questions the manager throws at her tell us this is a woman incapable of anything but painful honesty.
Darius gets a break from the monotony of her existence when she’s assigned to help a reporter named Jeff (Jake Johnson of Fox sitcom “New Girl”) track down a Washington man who placed an eccentric classified ad seeking a companion to go back in time with him.
(“Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before,” it reads.)
The two head to the coastal town of Ocean View with another intern, the shy, bespectacled Arnau (Karan Soni), and Jeff promptly sets about his real business — paying a visit to his former summer-fling dream girl — leaving his assistants to do all the detective work.
Darius throws herself into the story and discovers the ad was written by Kenneth (Duplass), a peculiar grocery store employee with a penchant for talking physics and a paranoid conviction that he’s being followed.
Is Kenneth crazy or could he really be on to something? Darius is intrigued and sets about trying to win him over in an attempt to find out. Improbably adorable time travel training montages ensue.
Director Colin Trevorrow and writer Derek Connolly — New York University grads who met as interns on “Saturday Night Live” — apparently based the film on a real-life classified ad placed as a gag to fill space in a magazine.
They’ve taken this novel idea and allowed their imaginations to run wild, but their story is more character study than sci-fi epic, exploring the universal longing to return to that one happy moment in childhood before innocence was lost.
In a script populated by characters who can’t seem to move past childhood, Duplass and Plaza display a warm, low-key chemistry that makes their part of the story a lot more interesting than the subplots involving Johnson’s sleazy journalist and Soni’s lonely nerd.
Duplass once again proves himself to be a lovably scruffy everyman in a film that requires him to sing and play the zither, wear a ridiculous Rambo headband, bust out questionable martial arts skills, brandish a gun and break into a lab in a hilarious spoof of Hollywood infiltration scenes. He makes us like a guy who is undeniably crazy on some level.
Trevorrow’s no-frills directorial style is unobtrusively low budget with pretty scenery shot in rainy Ocean Shores, Wash., which can look alternately gloomy, creepy or romantic.
“Safety’s” ending is virtually guaranteed to get people talking, but I loved it. It’s “Back to the Future” crossed with “Sleepless in Seattle.”
Photos: movieweb.com; www.starwars.com.