Film Review by: Gordon K. Smith
It wasn’t until the clever Geico commercials of a few years back that most Americans saw the face behind the voice they’d been hearing for years: Don LaFontaine, the king of dulcet-toned movie trailer narration whose deep intonation on the opening pitch “In a world…” became a trademark and a catchphrase. It’s been parodied (TROPIC THUNDER) and exaggerated how many times he actually said that (the last part of the GOODFELLAS trailer is one), but LaFontaine, who died in 2008, definitely set the bar.
Aspiring to be the first female voice over artist to challenge that bar is Carol, the main character in the sharp and original indie comedy IN A WORLD…, which pays homage to LaFontaine, not just in its title but with a replay of the Geico spot under its opening credits. Carol is played by Lake Bell (IT’S COMPLICATED, TV’s Children’s Hospital), who also wrote, co-produced and made her directing debut with the film, and she shines in all four jobs. Carol’s dad Sam (Fred Melamed) is a LaFontaine-ish, baritone-voiced announcing vet who wants Carol to monetize her own vocal skills and be a trailblazer in an industry that’s notoriously sexist and hard to crack (good luck trying to remember a trailer with female narration!). What a nice surprise in a biz that’s generally male-dominated, to see a good movie centering on the other contributions women make to cinema.
Carol’s quest is complicated by the unraveling union of sister Dani (Michaela Watkins) and husband Moe (Rob Corddry), and Louis (Demetri Martin), the nerdish sound engineer at her recording studio who hasn’t yet figured out how to use his voice to ask her out. To get a shot at the golden fleece of v.o. jobs – narrating the trailers for the film quadrilogy based on “The Amazon Games” books (you can guess what’s being spoofed there), she ultimately must compete not only with Dad himself but another top player in the field, Gustav (Ken Marino), whose own interests in her are other than professional.
Bell, who would make a great team-up with Tina Fey (movie gods, make this happen!) has cast IN A WORLD…with an array of great character actors that are friends/costars from Children’s Hospital and other projects, who share her impeccable comic timing. Nick Offerman, Geena Davis, Eva Longoria as herself (Carol trains her to speak Cockney) plus some choice surprise cameos add to the fun of this contemporary Hollywood-insider take on the classic screwball comedies of the ’30s and ’40s. Bell is a rising voice talent herself, and makes her nemesis, both in the film and in reality, the “sexy baby vocal virus” adopted by too many young actresses. Her screenplay for WORLD won the Screenwriting Award earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, and she just finished doing the voice of the Mona Lisa for Dreamworks’ upcoming animated MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN. I’m actually looking forward to that – the wretched 1999 live action DUDLEY DO-RIGHT sure could have used her.