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Movie review: ‘In a World ...’

Posted 8:52pm on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013

R (profanity, including sexual references); 93 min.

Lake Bell is one smart cookie. The tall, gorgeous actress is best known for sexy-funny supporting roles in comedies like What Happens in Vegas and It’s Complicated. But she has much more on the ball than even those spirited turns suggest. And she has given herself the ideal canvas to prove it in In a World . . . , her smart, enjoyable writing-directing debut in which she finally, deservedly stars.

Bell plays Carol, a struggling voice-over artist whose career is hindered by a rigid old-boys’ network in the studio and at home by her own overbearing father, Sam (Fred Melamed), a famous movie-trailer narrator and contemporary of the late, great Don LaFontaine.

The real-life voice-over legend LaFontaine, who died in 2008 and was notable for his booming, baritone timbre, is the one who made the film trailer-opening phrase “In a world . . .” his own; in Bell’s nervy, fizzily paced story, a studio decides to dust off those three little words for its upcoming “quadrilogy” of Hunger Games-like action dramas.

Carol unwittingly becomes part of the race for that coveted gig, competing with her dad and the reigning king of plummy tones, a wealthy, arrogant cock of the walk named Gustav — played by the reliably amusing Ken Marino.

With talent like that, it’s no surprise that In a World . . . is funny. Bell displays an impressive knack for capturing the goofy voice-over subculture.

Christopher Guest-like anthro-comedy would be entertaining enough, but Bell also expertly skewers sexism, Hollywood shallowness and anti-Hollywood snobbiness.

In a World . . . is a lot of fun, reflecting Bell’s own obvious love of piquant paradox and the music of the spoken word. But it also has a sharply observant streak that makes it as nourishing as it is endearingly nutty.

Exclusive: Angelika Dallas

— Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post

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