Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Run Time: 1 hour, 33 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Lake Bell, Rob Corddry, Alexandra Holden, Eva Longoria, Demetri Martin, Ken Marino, Fred Melamed, Nick Offerman, Tig Notaro, Michaela Watkins, Geena Davis
Written & Directed by Lake Bell (feature-film debut)
The famous real-life voice-over performer, Don LaFontaine, was known as "The Voice of God." His voice was featured on hundreds of movie trailers, commercials and TV shows before his death in 2008. One of his token lines, "In A World..." - read in a deep and husky voice - started off several trailers to the point that the words became famous. In the new indy-comedy, In A World... (now playing), actor/writer/director Lake Bell pays homage to the late LaFontaine by letting us in on the male-dominated world of voice-over actors.
Lake Bell has been around for a while now, but is perhaps most recognizable from the hilarious Comedy Central show, Childrens Hospital (currently TV's funniest show...if you are not watching it, you should be!). In In A World..., she plays Carol, the daughter of one of the biggest voice-over talents in Hollywood, Sam Soto (Fred Melamed). He's not what you would call a loving or supportive father, but it's clear that Carol looks up to him and seeks his attention. She has, after all, tried to follow in his footsteps, working as a vocal coach who excels in accents.
Now several years after the death of LaFontaine - as the story goes - Hollywood execs are ready to once again use those three famous words on the trailer of the upcoming blockbuster quadrilogy (not a trilogy...), The Amazon Games. The words had all but been retired, since LaFontaine all but owned them, so this news is huge in the voice-over world. It would sky-rocket one's career if they were the man - or woman - selected to fill LaFontaine's shoes.
Sam is nearing retirement and about to receive a lifetime achievement award for his voice work. He longs to be with his girlfriend Mimi (Olya Milova), who is just one year older than his daughter, so he is out of the running for the job. That leaves one of the top up-and-comers in the voice-acting field, Gustav Warner (Ken Marino, a fellow resident of Childrens Hospital) primed for the position.
But when Gustav calls in sick one day, Carol steps in to do a temp recording for him. Her voice catches the ears of some top executives, who decide to turn The Amazon Games voice-over job into an open audition. Disgusted that a woman would even be considered for such an important duty, Sam throws his voice back into the ring.
While this serves as the main plot, Lake Bell over-crowds her film with a bevy of comedians and sub-stories. Her sister, Dani (Michaela Watkins) and her schlub husband, Mo (Rob Corddry, yet another Childrens Hospital vet) take Carol in but are dealing with some serious marital problems. Carol's co-workers in the studio - played by Demetri Martin, Nick Offerman and Tig Notaro - offer her support on her way to the top. Demetri Martin's Louis character is given the most screen time as a nerdy love interest for Carol.
Somehow, the sum of all of the parts add up to be a pretty delightful comedy. There is clearly no lack of talent here, and it's fairly clear that many of these actors must be appearing in their friend's film. That's what independent comedies are all about anyways, right? You call on those closest to you to save money and fill out the cast with recognizable faces. How else can you explain the appearances of Nick Offerman and Tig Notaro in this film? Both gifted comedians, not given much to do here.
What Bell is trying to say with the whole storyline revolving around Carol's sister and husband was lost on me. Several characters don't seem to have purpose. But while this isn't a tear-inducing comedy, there are enough laughs - spread out and delivered in a steady pace - to pull you in.
Clearly, Lake Bell has something to say not only about feminism but also about the direction young females seem to be headed in today's world. In one scene, Carol gets a gum-chewing teeny-bopper to admit that a sexy-baby voice may be appropriate in the bedroom, but she should really work on it for her hopeful profession as a lawyer.
The film's funniest scenes comes out of the awkwardness between Lake Bell's Carol and Demetri Martin's Louis. It's a recognizable relationship for anyone who has ever been in love, who also happens to lack basic social or dating skills.
Though portions of the film don't work quite as well as others, In A World... is not a bad world to exist in for a while. For some reason, I was reminded of Kevin Smith's Clerks when watching this. That movie was a train-wreck from a technical standpoint, although it was made on only a fraction of the budget that even the independently made In A World... was. But it contained laughs and put an instant spotlight on Kevin Smith. The world wanted to know, what's next?
Consider In A World... like a well-made trailer of Lake Bell's talents: She has definitely peaked my interest as a writer and a filmmaker and I look forward to seeing more from her.
Did I just compare Lake Bell to Silent Bob? I think I inadvertently did. The two films are not comparable at all in style or comedy, but as a creative force who has generated a bit of buzz, Lake Bell seems to have cleared her throat and is ready for the world to hear her. We will be listening.
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