Editor’s note: Allison’s review of In a World originally ran during this year’s LAFF, but we’re re-posting it now as the film opens in limited theatrical release this weekend.
Children naturally grow up wanting to be like their parents, and some actually do. Children of actors becoming actors, children of musicians becoming musicians, and I’m sure there are some children of accountants who become accountants. (Okay, maybe not that last one.) Carol (Lake Bell) wants to be a voice over actor, but not because her father, famous voice over actor Sam (Fred Melamed) is one, but because she understand the power of voice.
Carol spends her days as a vocal coach (boasting Eva Longoria as one of her clients) and logging various accents into her archive of voices. Carol is kooky and a bit awkward (her outfits alone can tell you that), but she is also sweet and honest, in no way the shark you apparently need to be to make it as a voice over actor.
In A World… takes audiences behind the scenes of voice over acting as the community “mourns” the death of the godfather of voice over acting, Don LaFontaine, by clamoring for a shot to take over the iconic, “In a world…” line. Even though his own daughter has aspirations to make a name for herself in the industry, Sam is instead grooming another up-and-coming voice over actor, Gustav (Ken Marino) for the job. Sam may not support his daughter’s career, but he also decides to stop supporting her, throwing her out so his new, younger girlfriend Jamie (Alexandra Holden) can move in. Carol finds herself living on the couch of her sister Dani (Michaela Watkins) who is in the midst of her own problems with her husband Moe (Rob Corddy.)
After subbing in for a children’s rom-com (as Carol says, “That’s a genre now?”) promo, Carol’s voice is suddenly sought after as a fresh new sound from the standard male vocals. Carol is just happy to be getting work, but the rest of the community views her as a threat that must be destroyed. The competition heats up as rumors spread that Carol will be voicing the trailer for the upcoming quaduriple series The Amazon Games (think The Hunger Games, but with cavemen hybrids) which is bringing back the classic, “In a world…” intro. All those in the industry (including her father) start vying for the job and the gloves come off as throats are cleared, hot water with lemon is consumed, and way too many hours are spent in the sauna.
Bell also the writer and director of In A World… and has created a narrative with a natural comedic flow that delivers laughs despite the more restrained performances from her cast of accomplished comedians including Demitri Martin, Nick Offerman, and Tig Notaro. The intertwined relationships and missed connections make In A World… almost seem like a new take on A Midsummer’s Night Dream at times, but the relationship between Carol and Dani and the budding romance between Carol and Louis (Martin) are some of the film’s best moments.
While certainly funny and goofy, In A World… also imparts an important message about the power of voice, and Bell is clearly a voice to be heard.
The Upside: Impressive comedic writing from first-time writer/director Bell; feel good movie with a message that is not overly preachy; a nice dose of Corddy’s dramatic chops.
The Downside: Scenes of the characters talking over one another is not only grating, but takes away from the idea that everyone should have a voice when they all become muddled together; Sam’s relationship with Jamie seemed both random and forced; more Tig Notaro, please.
On the Side: Melissa Disney was the first woman to do the voice over for a film trailer for Gone in 60 Seconds and Melamed was also a voice over actor having voiced commercials for the Olympics, Mercedes Benz, the Super Bowl, and the Grand Theft Auto series.