Movie review: In a world where movies are neat and tidy, this isn't

For the News-DemocratAugust 22, 2013 

What It's About

You've heard their distinctive voices on movie trailers and commercials. "In a World" humorously depicts this cutthroat showbiz field through a chaotic slice-of-life tale. In a fresh point of view from director-writer Lake Bell, several hot-shot voice-overs compete with the new kid on their turf for the year's blockbuster franchise movie. Never mind that one of those vying is her legendary father.

Winner of the Best Screenplay Award at the Sundance Film Festival, this low-budget indie is a fetching, funny look at the voice-over business with a goofy family dynamic and realistic romance. Carol Solomon (Lake Bell) is slowly breaking into the business as she earns a living through vocal coaching. Lacking confidence and knee-deep in a dysfunctional whirlwind, she gets a shot at the brass ring. She courageously steps up to the plate, but will her father's humongous ego thwart her efforts?

Performances

Bell, Rob Corddry and Ken Marino are veterans of the Emmy-nominated Cartoon Network's Adult Swim original series "Children's Hospital," and it's apparent they work together well. Nimble with natural dialogue, these characters have more dimensions than a typical high-concept comedy.

Bell ("Boston Legal") is a relatable young woman, as is Michaela Watkins ("The Back-up Plan"), who plays her married sister Dani. All the characters are rooted in reality. Demitri Martin ("Contagion") has a nice turn as Louis, a regular Joe smitten with his client, and Fred Melamed ("A Serious Man") is hilariously over-the-top as the pompous sexist vocal star and bawdy, insensitive father.

What Works

It's rough-around-the-edges quality suits the story - as it gives a normalcy sheen to a crazy Hollywood work environment. Because it combines a romance and family storyline, too, this works in the film's favor.

Inspired and original (*177*) it presents an endearing group of people in a story that's definitely not a re-tread of the same old material.

The title refers to the "Voice of God" Don LaFontaine's catchphrase that began numerous movie previews -- "In a world ..." and that becomes a running gag.

What Doesn't Work

If you like a neat and tidy film, this isn't it. Devoid of mainstream Hollywood slickness, "In a World" sticks to its rag-tag, messy approach, and that makes it appealing.

3 1/2 stars out of 4

Director: Lake Bell

Starring: Lake Bell, Fred Melamed, Demetri Martin, Ken Marino, Rob Corddry, Michaela Watkins, Alexandra Holden

Length: 1:33

Rated: R for language including some sexual references

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