The most famous movie trailer words of all time are, “In a World…” Always spoken by a baritone male voice injected with extra bass and testosterone, there are no words more well-known than these to kick off a preview. Why no booming female voiceovers for trailers? Tradition perhaps? Did the studios conduct research and learn audiences prefer male voices? Or does it all come down to sexism aka this is a man’s territory?
Writing and directing her first feature film, Lake Bell uses comedy to address what she sees as a glaring lack of female presence in the voiceover world. Carol (Bell) is in her early-30’s, lives at home, and bugs strangers with her voice recorder to study their accents. Carol’s dad, Sam (Fred Melamed), is one of the most sought after voiceover artists in the business and is looking to hang it all up since he is due to receive a lifetime achievement award in a few days.
Sam invites his new and much younger girlfriend (Alexandra Holden) to move in and kicks out Carol. He tells her he is doing her a favor otherwise she will never get out into the world on her own. Carol moves straight to her sister’s couch and flutters around her small apartment as her brother-in-law (an excellent Rob Corddry) edits reality shows from home.
There are other supporting characters moving in and out of Carol’s sphere including Gustav (Ken Marino) whom Sam is backing to be his heir in the voiceover world and Louis (Demetri Martin) who may or may not be a romantic interest for Carol. In a World... follows conventional romantic comedy formulas; therefore, each character will have his or her obstacle to overcome by the end of the film and everything should be wrapped up and presented with a tiny bow before the feel good ending.
Carol accidentally steals a trailer voiceover away from Gustav, then sort of sleeps with Gustav, who tells Sam about this girl he nailed at a party, and Louis hears about it and gets jealous, etc… Yes, the standard misunderstanding and love triangle business. What saves In a World... from being a forgettable throwaway are Carol’s sister, Dani (Michaela Watkins), and her sad sack husband Moe. They have been married a long time, are in a rut (at least Dani is), and may be susceptible to wandering eye symptoms. Their relationship is the movie’s only believable pairing and holds our interest for its limited, but enjoyable, screen time.
A noticeable annoying quirk, for a film about powerful voices and precise diction, are way too many conversations where the characters stutter-step, hang their words, or just plain talk over one another. Just about everyone acts overly awkward and twitchy, especially Carol. Her verbal calamities wear on your nerves after a while until you wish she would just speak a simple declarative sentence without tripping all over herself. For a vocal coach, she has atrocious conversation skills.
Kudos to Bell for showing us a world we rarely see, the behind-the-scenes voiceover work, and for bringing along her Children’s Hospital co-stars, Corddry and Marino, but I hope next time she brings less idiosyncratic quirk and tighter direction behind the camera.
Directed by: Lake Bell
Written by: Lake Bell
Starring: Lake Bell, Rob Corddry, Alexandra Holden, Eva Longoria, Ken Marino, Demetri Martin, Fred Melamed, Tig Notaro, Nick Offerman, Michaela Watkins, Geena Davis