Published Aug 15, 2013With a cute tip of the hat, indie comedy In a World… takes its title from the infamous catch line of voice actor Don LaFontaine, a man whose deep baritone delivery became synonymous with thousands of movie trailers and advertisements.
Known for her role on How to Make It in America and Adult Swim's Children's Hospital, Lake Bell takes charge here, not only writing and directing, but also starring in In a World…. She assumes the role of Carol Solomon, a struggling vocal coach scrambling to establish a career in a male-dominated industry while similarly attempting to step out from the shadow of her father, Sam Sotto (Fred Melamed), the current, reigning "king of the voiceover" since LaFontaine's passing.
When a production company recruits Carol to record a vocal track for an upcoming quadrilogy of films called The Amazon Games (an obvious nod to The Hunger Games, only with Amazonians battling it out to the death), she suddenly finds herself in high demand. She also finds herself in uncharted territory, being legitimate competition for her father and his chauvinistic, upstart protégé, Gustav Warner (Ken Marino).
Initially, the topic of voiceover acting as a template for comedy seems unlikely to drum up many laughs. But Bell's intimate knowledge of the industry and knowing nods to the situations and personalities involved with this world, even exaggerated, prove effective, making for charming hilarity amidst the formulaic predictability.
One such scene has Carol working as a vocal coach for Eva Longoria, attempting to teach her how to do a Cockney British accent. As one might expect, Longoria's faking of such an accent is comedic gold. There are also running gags about a variety of accents and intonations, most hilariously, about women who do the "sexy baby" affectation, which succinctly sums up modern, regressive, inverse gender politics.
Helping drive the main story, giving it a bit of human complexity and thematic connectivity, is a clever subplot involving Carol's older sister, Dani (Michaela Watkins), whose attraction to an Irishman (Jason O'Mara) proves to be a bit of a hurdle in her marriage. It's sort of a contrary wink at the discomfort she and Carol have with their father's sexy young girlfriend, Jamie (Alexandra Holden), a "voiceover groupie."
What helps sell Bell's cute, magnetic comedy is an incredible supporting cast portraying an assortment of largely likeable characters, which, despite being an array of cameos (keep an eye out for Geena Davis), defies the showy gimmickry of that tendency, working well for the in-joke, industry template of it all.
In a World… toes the line with a cliché triumph of the well-worn underdog story while at the same time breathing new life into the formula with its unique spin of genre tropes and uncanny industry insight. It's by no means a life-changing experience, but it is quite well made for what it is.
I think it's a fair to assume that we can expect great things from Lake Bell in the future. (Sony)