Certainly not to be confused with Suzanne Bier’s Oscar-winning film which ironically interjected the word “better” into her tale of fathers, their children and revenge served cold, the title of Lake Bell’s directorial debut is a phrase that should resonate with anyone who has seen a movie trailer during the era of legendary voiceover artist, Don LaFontaine. His name and pipes were so synonymous with the kind of epic introductions of anticipated product that his later years before his passing were filled with more parody than the inducing of excitement. Bell’s film wants to tell the tale of Hollywood and its vocally-gifted minions picking up the mantle for a new era, but shockingly buries its own lede until it practically becomes an ironic parody of itself.
Bell stars as Carol, the daughter of the heir apparent to LaFontaine’s legacy, Sam Sotto (Fred Melamed, in a terribly false and overbearing performance). She works as a vocal coach and does some fill-ins at a recording studio but has bigger dreams of being the first female trailer artist; dreams that dear ol’ dad has no interest in supporting her on. When a commercial opportunity is dropped into her lap though, Carol makes the most of it and instantly becomes a candidate to be the official voice for an upcoming “quadrilogy.” Also in the running is dear ol’ dad and the pompous Gustav (Ken Marino) who finds himself getting the support and mentoring that Carol could never get from Sam.
A movie that opens with someone trying to salvage Eva Longoria from the ethnic constraints of a Cockney accent should ultimately be funnier than it actually is. This cold open suggests a more satirical overtone to the world of Hollywood’s fringe players than the audience is actually in store for. Instead, Bell’s script drifts away from its central premise for an extended middle section that plays out like one of the bad rom-coms that no voiceover can sell.
Carol’s sister, Dani (Michaela Watkins), cannot find anything positive in her relationship with Moe (Rob Corddry), an amiable-enough guy who may as well have “yes, dear” tattooed on his scalp. As a concierge, Dani is used to getting men what they need so she gears up for the chance to take up the advances of a charming Irish hotel guest (Jason O’Mara) named Mr. Pouncer. Meanwhile at Carol’s job, her boss, Louis (Dimetri Martin, playing sort of the male version of Bell’s character from No Strings Attached) has a clear crush on her and awkwardly hints at it just as the office secretary more aggressively makes her feelings known for him. Carol is too clueless to notice, however, as she gets busy with the smooth Gustav, who gets the blessing from Sam to get fun-time revenge on the broad who sniped the commercial gig away from him while being unaware he’s putting it to his daughter. Is this the movie Bell really set out to make?
As part of the struggle between misogynist and feminist mentalities of who-needs-what and what-each-expects, there might be something to skewering the cinematic conventions of men having the power and women not realizing they are being pressed under their thumbs and other pointy appendages. Except these are the conventions – without commentary – playing out more like every other informational-challenged character behaving at the whims of a screenwriter’s clichés than as groundbreaking individuals. By the time In a World… gets around to its ultimate point of the importance of women not just finding their voice, but using it as something other than some reality show fantasy, the irony runs deep in how that very idea was suppressed by a female star/writer/director until it was too late for anyone to care.