Sept. 12--"In a World . . . " shows that a clever idea and an engaging protagonist do not a movie make.
A couple dodgy subplots lead to a film less focused than it could be, and longer that it should be.
Lake Bell, who wrote and directed, also stars as a woman trying to make it in a voice-over and movie trailer business where she is overshadowed by her legendarily mellifluous father, played by Fred Melamed.
He believes female voices have no place in the business and browbeats her for trying. And when he starts dating a woman his daughter's age, Bell moves in with her sister and brother-in-law -- played by Michaela Watkins and Rob Corddry -- who are having marriage problems.
The film begins with samples of the work of late legendary voice artist Don LaFontaine, and the title is a reference to his deep-voiced trademark phrase. But what follows is less an affectionate portrait of the voice-over subculture than an indie romantic comedy about the people in it.
Anyone who has ever told a story knows the temptation to throw every detail into the mix.
Let "In a World..." be a cautionary tale.
There are several sweet moments, particularly between Bell and bumbling sound engineer Demetri Martin. But the middle drags. Scenes about her sister's marriage and Bell's through-the-looking-glass affair with her father's sleazy protege feel inauthentic, and overwhelm the good stuff.
The most satisfying of which is Bell herself, who won the Sundance Film Festival's screenwriting award. It's appropriate that a story about women's voices has such a distinctive authorial perspective. But by wearing so many hats, Bell produces a film that is more vision than focus.
In a World... ??1/2
Cast: Lake Bell, Rob Corddry, Ken Marino, Michaela Watkins, Demetri Martin, Fred Melamed, Tig Notaro, Nick Offerman, Geena Davis, Eva Longoria
Behind the scenes: Produced by Lake Bell, Mark Roberts, Jett Steiger and Eddie Vaisman. Written and directed by Lake Bell.
Rated: R; language, sexual references
Approximate running time: 93 minutes
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