Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Lake Bell
Stars: lake Bell, Demetri Martin, Fred Melamed, Ken Marino, Michaela Watkins, Rob Corddry.
The late Hal Douglas was a veteran voice over announcer whose deep stentorian tones were familiar to millions of movie goers through his work on hundreds of blockbuster movie trailers, which often began with that iconic phrase “In a world…” His recent death throws an ironic pall over this iconoclastic comedy about the fictitious search for a new voice over announcer to bring those familiar words back to life. This enjoyable ensemble comedy takes us behind the scenes of this little known but cut throat world and reveals the bitchy infighting and backstabbing, the rampant egos, the misogyny of this world. A faux documentary about the legacy of real life voice over veteran Don LaFontaine opens the film and gives us a brief glimpse into this fascinating world.
When the film begins a film producer announces that a search is on for a voice over talent to bring back that iconic phrase that has opened millions of movie trailers for decades. The front runner would usually be the egotistical and pompous veteran Sam Soto (Fred Melamed, from A Serious Man, The Dictator, etc), who has paid his dues and is about to be presented with a life time achievement award for his work. But Sam seems willing to step aside to give his protege, the dull witted, shallow womanising Gustav (played by Ken Marino from Children’s Hospital, Veronica Mars, etc) a chance to try out for the lucrative gig.
But Sam’s daughter Carol Solomon (Lake Bell), a vocal coach to the stars and a voice over artist in her own right, also wants to try out for the gig. Her career has stalled due to her own laziness, lack of self-confidence and inability to organise her life. She still lives at home with her curmudgeonly and condescending father because she cannot afford her own apartment. She is encouraged to try out by the charming and meek sound producer Louis (genial comic Demetri Martin), who is secretly in love with her. Soon the romantic sparks fly between the pair. But when Sam discovers that Gustav has seduced Carol, the gloves come off.
A lesser subplot explores the troubled relationship between Carol’s sister Dani (Michaela Watkins) and her cuckolded husband Moe (Rob Corddry), who is hurt by her casual extra-marital fling.
In A World is a screwball comedy that marks the writing and directing debut for Bell, an actress better known for her work in tv series like Children’s Hospital, etc) who has often been sidelined to small, supporting roles in films like No Strings Attached, etc. But she handles the material with an assurance and confidence that stamps her as a talent to watch. The script is peppered with some great caustic lines, and insights into the flawed characters, and it won the Waldo Salt screenplay award at Sundance last year. She has created strong female character, but Bell’s attempts to explore the push for female empowerment in a male dominated world fall a little flat. The potentially interesting battle of the sexes angle gets lost in a succession of platitudes and familiar cliches of the romcom genre.
Bell has a nice self-deprecating style that works well here. She also manages to draw some strong performances from her cast, many of whom she has worked with on her tv series. Melamed has a commanding presence and a rich, resonant voice that is well used here, while Marino is good as the handsome but sleazy Gustav. Corddry brings a touch of sympathy to his role. And Bell has also managed to attract a roster of stars to contribute cameo appearances, including Geena Davis as a tough talking film studio executive who is looking for someone to provide the voice over for her Amazon Games quadrilogy, while the likes of Jeff Garlin, Eva Longoria and Cameron Diaz play themselves.
In A World seems content to both pay homage to those voice over artists who are the unsung heroes of movie trailers, and also to parody the profession with all its vanities and insecurities at the same time.