‘In a World...’ Reveals a Voiceover of Heart, Hilarity

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Rating: 4.0/5.0

CHICAGO – One the most familiar movie clichés is the sonorous voice that intones “In a world…” to begin a movie trailer, and then extols the virtues of that upcoming feature. Lake Bell, who wrote, directed and stars in the new movie, “In a World…,’ creates a delightful and gentle satire of voiceover artists and their journeys.

Living with her famous voiceover father, Bell portrays a thirtysomething dialect coach and slacker, who by chance emerges as a player in the VO industry. This angers the Dad, and the film really becomes about relationships and the misunderstandings that develop when feelings are hurt. The comedy is light and breezy, and Bell the director reveals a sure hand in guiding the multi-tracked story to a warm conclusion. This is the type of film that could have easily gone off track by relying on the one-note skewering of the voiceover industry, but because it dared to do more it introduces Lake Bell as a force who can balance comedy, satire and heart.

Lake Bell is Carol, a stuck-in-a-rut dialect coach in Los Angeles, also living in the home and under the shadow of her famous voiceover father, Sam Sotto (Fred Melamed). When her Dad decides to live with his latest girlfriend, Carol is forced to move in with her sister Dani (Michaela Watkins) and brother-in-law Moe (Rob Corddry). When unexpected work starts to come in, the prospects for Carol start to look up, including her crush on a sound engineer named Louis (Demetri Martin).

Lake Bell
Carol (Lake Bell) Practices Her Craft for ‘In a World…’
Photo credit: Roadside Attractions

The “world” of voiceover comes down to a precious few, which includes Sam Sotto and Gustav (Ken Marino), who are competing for a new VO job for a hot summer movie. Complications arise when Carol’s work starts to be heard by the right industry people, who want her to audition for that same trailer voice as well. In a world where family can get involved in professional rivalries, relationship fireworks could erupt.

Lake Bell, who is recognizable as a character actor from the TV show “Boston Legal” and the film “It’s Complicated,” creates a complete story that includes decent laughs, subtle skewering and a surprising emotional connection. She also cast it with her mates for Adult Swim’s “Children’s Hospital” – she’s performed and directed the show – and they come through with character turns that make her dialogue and story that much better.

The term “in a world” is associated with the movie trailer voiceover legend Don LaFontaine, and much of the plot surrounding the VO artists has to do with the reintroduction of that term in the blockbuster trailer they all want to narrate. This is exceedingly clever in Bell’s script and direction, because it’s never pushed too far and is actually respects its farcical insight. The “voice” is characterized in all its pompous glory by Fred Melamed as Sam Sotto, whose ego is as deep as his voice. The film is about Carol, but it’s about Sam as well, which is part of the charm.

Within Lake Bell’s “stock company,” Nate Corddry may surprise audiences the most. Mostly known for the broad comedy of “Children’s Hospital,” Corddry turns in a warm performance as Carol’s brother-in-law, caught in the marriage rut and the possible affair of his wife – who is deftly played by Michaela Watkins, a former “Saturday Night Live” player. What could have been two throwaway characters becomes the moral heart in Bell’s script, generated by the subtleties of Corddry and Watkins. It was terrifically warm and struck just the right note.

Lake Bell, Fred Melamed
Carol and Father Sam (Fred Melamed) Are ‘In a World…’
Photo credit: Roadside Attractions

And that is how the film is deceptive – what seems like a rivalry between voiceover artists to score a silly fantasy movie eventually turns into a catalyst for family relationships to come together and heal. It’s amazingly clever how Bell navigates all this, but it works with the addition of a technique straight out of Shakespeare – a minor character becomes a major force for change.

In the midst of all the mechanics, superheroes and overwrought melodrama of summer films, it’s invigorating to experience a simple little comedy about the realm of the movie trailer voiceover. In a creative world, anything is possible.

“In a World…” continues its limited release in Chicago on August 16th. See local listings for theaters and show times. Featuring Lake Bell, Rob Corddry, Ken Marino, Demetri Martin, Nick Offerman, Michaela Watkins, Geena Davis and Jeff Garlin. Written and directed by Lake Bell. Rated “R”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2013 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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