2013 – Vocal coach Carol Solomon (Lake Bell) lives in the shadow of her father Sam (Fred Melamed), Hollywood’s go-to movie trailer voice, as she tries to break into the field.

I liked this movie. What’s wrong with me? I need to find one I hate, STAT.

Sort of an “awkward comedy” (the kind where you grit your teeth and wince instead of laugh out loud), sort of a drama, In A World… has no right to be as good as it is. The central drama is the race to get movie trailer voice-over jobs; there are a ton of characters; it’s one of those “written, directed, and starring” things that are usually so insufferable. But writer, director, and star Lake Bell manages to establish a convincing world populated by unique, engaging characters, creating a true Netflix gem.

You know the “in a world” guy, right? Don LaFontaine was basically the God of movie trailers, and his trademark phrase, “In a world where…” was used so often that it’s become a cliché. In a World… takes that obscure bit of pop culture trivia and makes it the premise of the movie: they’re going revive that phrase in the trailers for an upcoming Hunger Games-esque “quadrilogy,” and competition for the voice-over is going to be fierce.

Reigning champ Sam Sotto claims he doesn’t want the job. He’s sponsoring up-and-comer Gustav Warner (Ken Marino). Sam’s daughter Carol has always dreamed of a job like this, but is trapped by the voice-over industry’s glass ceiling for women – and also just accidentally slept with Gustav at a party. Meanwhile, she has to deal her father’s young new wife Jamie (Alexandra Holden), awkward co-worker Louis (Demetri Martin), and sister Dani’s (Michaela Watkins) troubled marriage with Moe (Rob Corddry). We’ve only got 90 minutes for all this. Sheesh.

Although it seems to be Bell’s first full-length screenplay, the movie doesn’t fritter away any time. The plots are woven together so that every scene contributes to the overall dramatic momentum. With so many names and relationships and so little time, it’s a credit to the movie that I only lost a few here and there (I didn’t realize Dani was Carol’s sister until halfway through).

It’s not perfect; some of the gags are definitely more funny in theory than in practice. One sub-plot – Moe’s seeming crush on his flirty English neighbor – seems to vanish without a trace. Otherwise, this movie serves as a wonderful reminder of just how much you can do with an hour and a half.

The film’s signature achievement is that it made me really care about the jerk from Hot Tub Time Machine. Beyond that, In a World… gives us some good old-fashioned heart-warming reasons to stay engaged. A daughter secretly wishes to make her father proud; a nerd works up the courage to ask out his crush; a long-time couple struggles in the face of suspected infidelity.

Heartily recommended. Oh, and Eva Longoria appears for two minutes. What was she famous for again?


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