In a world where movie trailers still seem to all begin with the words “In a world,” there is really only room for one type of voiceover actor. The late Don LaFontaine was the originator of that particular “genre” of theatrical trailer, and anyone hoping to follow in his footsteps would need a voice to match his: booming, deep, authoritative, slightly intimidating and overwhelmingly masculine. It would be more or less impossible for a man with a higher voice, let alone a woman, to try and break into an industry dominated by a handful of people who all strive to sound exactly the same, but the attempt to break the glass ceiling of trailer narration is the main focus of the film “In A World,” the screenwriting/directorial debut of actress Lake Bell.
Carol (Bell) is the daughter of famed voice actor Sam Sotto (Fred Melamed), and has long wanted to break into the industry, but has been held back by her gender as well as her father’s condescension and jealousy. She has been living in his house, scraping by on money made from vocal coaching work, until he finally kicks her out and she moves in with her sister and her sister’s boyfriend. By a stroke of pure luck, when she is at a studio helping other actors re-record their lines, she makes a test recording of narration for a trailer for a new children’s film coming out; the executives like her voiceover work, and she picks up some other jobs after that, but then a massive opportunity arises, which elates her, but brings out the jealousy of her father and his basso-voiced ilk as they try to stop an inexperienced young woman from encroaching on what they view as “their” natural territory.
The film is part movie industry in-joke, part romantic comedy, part drama and part pseudo-feminist musing on the nature of certain types of jobs. It is unfair to systematically shut a group of people out of a certain line of work, to be sure, but does a movie voiceover have the same amount of gravitas if it doesn’t have the type of voice that everyone has been associating with it for decades? The film doesn’t linger too long on any of its points; it moves along fairly breezily through its different genres, with varying amounts of success. There are a lot of characters and a lot of plot points stuffed into the movie, perhaps too many for its own good, and a lot of the romantic drama with side characters winds up feeling superfluous. It is probably least successful when it is trying to be a comedy, since much of the humor is of the “have the characters talk in long, rambling sentences” sort. Many comedians have small parts in the cast, notably Demitri Martin, Rob Corddry, Nick Offerman and Tig Notaro, but none of them get much of a chance to be funny themselves, making their casting seem a little strange. For those with an interest in the voice acting business, that aspect of the film is probably the most intriguing, and the cameo appearances of a couple of legendary movie trailer narrators are a fun little reference for those of us who recognize them. (For those that don’t, look up the video “5 Guys In A Limo” online and marvel at finally putting faces to voices you have been hearing your entire life.) All in all, it is a decent movie, if not an outstanding one, and its concept is more interesting than its execution.