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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Review: In a World

As a big fan of Adult Swim's Children's Hospital, I've been eagerly awaiting the release of "In a World," a low-budget romantic comedy written and directed by Lake Bell. Bell, an actress on Children's Hospital, recruited several of her co-stars for the movie, including Rob Corddry, Ken Marino, and Nick Offerman. This movie has been slowly trickling into cities across the U.S. and was welcomed with overwhelmingly positive reviews. So far, so good, right? 

"In a World" revolves around Carol (Bell), a haphazard, unorganized vocal instructor who still lives at home with her father, Sam (Fred Melemed) and can't hold steady work. The film's first 15 minutes flesh out the movie trailer voice over industry using both fact, such as Don LaFontaine's hold on the industry, the history of the phrase "in a world," and the void left by LaFontaine's death, and fiction, positioning Sam as one of LaFontaine's competitors and a sudden king in his field. Throughout the course of the film, Carol struggles with her relationships and personal life while pursuing a high-profile movie trailer gig that would secure her place next to her father in the industry.  

"In a World" is essentially two movies woven together: a less traditional story of women and their place in the voice-over industry as it evolves, and another we've seen a million times -  the story of an aimless 30-something woman trying to get her life together. Unfortunately the latter part of the movie took up the majority of the screen time, which made me feel like this was almost a movie that was new and different, but that I'd already seen most of it. 

This isn't to say "In a World" is a complete waste of time. Rob Corddry and Nick Offerman have some genius lines and moments, and I loved every moment that parodied stereotypical movie trailers and showed the actors auditioning for their roles. I'm disappointed that my favorite part of this movie were the roles given to the men, however, given that this movie raises the issue of sexism and feels like it's meant to empower women. Bell's character in particular was very troublesome. Carol spends most of the movie establishing how "quirky" she is, but her character still feels incredibly one-dimensional. She acts as a sort of blank slate, registering the emotions and actions of the people around her without taking charge of anything that is happening to her. When she actually does have romantic interactions with other characters, I genuinely couldn't tell if she was interested in them or just pretending because she was bored. 

The comedy in "In a World" also falls just short of what I expected. It's not entirely fair to measure this movie against Children's Hospital simply because both contain several of the same actors, but it's difficult not to expect more of the same random, strange and witty humor that we've seen Bell deliver. Every time I felt the movie starting to sort of go there, it quickly pulled back and kept the humor more subtle and restrained. At the end of the day, it just felt like something was either missing or being held back. 

It's easy to be hard on this movie because I expected so much and because the premise was so fresh and clever, but I urge you to keep your expectations dialed back or to wait for this one to hit Netflix or DVD.  I really wanted to love this, but at the end of the day I only kinda sorta liked it. You'll likely laugh some, give the obligatory "it was cute," but ultimately this isn't a must-see, which is why:

I give it a C+. 
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