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REVIEW: Rookie director charms with smart, funny 'World'

Roadside Attractions
Lake Bell stars in 'In a World. '

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‘In a World...'

★★★1⁄2 (out of 4)

R

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By Bill Goodykoontz
Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013, 7:58 p.m.
 

Movies about the entertainment industry come with a built-in trap: that there will be too much inside baseball, limiting the appeal to only those who understand the nature of the game.

Lake Bell ups the ante even further with “In a World ...,” her debut feature, which she wrote, directs and stars in. It's set in the world of voice-over artists and never leaves its orbit.

But it's also smart, sharp in all the right places and funny. Beyond that, it's got heart. Even the jerks are OK to be around, at least for a time. And this world seems to be full of them.

Chief among them is Sam Sotto (Fred Melamed), a legend in the voice-over world — and the father of Carol Solomon (Bell). The film begins shortly after the death of real-life legend Don LaFontaine, whose catchphrase that kicked off so many movie trailers gives the film its title. (“In a world where nothing is as it seems ... .”)

Carol dreams of doing voice-over work, but it's the ultimate good-old-boys' club, and her father is one of the chief chauvinists.

Word is, a film franchise called “The Amazon Games” (yes, that's a “Hunger Games” jab, only this series is a “quadrilogy”) is going to bring back LaFontaine's famous phrase for the trailer, so all the voice talent in Los Angeles is girding for the gig. Sam would seem to be the odds-on choice, but he's decided he'll get out of the way of the fast-rising Gustav Werner (Ken Marino), an arrogant misogynist, which makes Gustav the perfect person for Sam to take under his wing.

But Carol wants the job, too, even though Sam and Gustav think that's a ridiculous notion. She works up a demo tape with the sweet-natured Louis (Demetri Martin), a sound engineer at the studio where she works as a dialect coach.

There will be ill-advised flings, mistaken identities and more. Bell manages to make the whole thing seem plausible, but, at the same time, broad enough that we can relate. And laugh.

Is it accurate? It hardly matters. The world Bell creates in “In a World ...” is so agreeable and inviting you'll enjoy the visit regardless.

Bill Goodykoontz of The Arizona Republic is the chief film critic for Gannett.

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