Saturday, January 2, 2016

In a World...

Year 8, Day 2 - 1/2/16 - Movie #2,202

BEFORE: Two days into the new year, and already I'm making negative process.  The watchlist started at 160, but then TCM ran all SIX "Thin Man" movies in a row on New Year's Eve + New Year's Day, so I was down one for watching "Knock Knock, It's Tig Notaro" but then up six for a total gain of 5.  After tonight I'll be at 164, but it will still take me four more days to get back to where I started.  That's not good, if I want to stay on track for finishing this year. 

Tig Notaro AND Jeff Garlin carry over from "Knock Knock, It's Tig Notaro".

THE PLOT:  An underachieving voice coach finds herself competing in the movie trailer voice-over profession against her arrogant father and his protégé.

AFTER: Whatever I said last night about comedians, you could probably say the same about voice-over artists.  Except that you can't - comedians work hard engaging the audience, develop their own material, and have exhausting travel schedules.  Voice-over artists sit in a little booth, are given pages of copy, and only need to get to the nearest recording studio.  By contrast, it's an easy job - and I should know, I've done it, for characters in animated films.  The most difficult voice I ever had to do was for a gay French fashion designer, but after 15 minutes of listening to Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau and also Bronson Pinchot in "Beverly Hills Cop", I found I could make my voice do what was required. 

I don't mean to cast aspersions on any group of people, and a gig's a gig, but come on, it's just vocal acting.  I've worked with some notable actors and actresses, some of whom were doing animation for the first time, and they've said things like, "Oh, this is so great, I don't need to worry about my hair or my wardrobe!" or "Hey, I could just roll right out of bed and do this job!" and in one case, an actress I won't name was concerned about not having lost weight after giving birth, and was looking for acting credits without appearing on camera.  Trust me, if you can take direction and maybe do an accent or two, it beats digging ditches outside Kuala Lumpur.  I was about two steps away from putting a voice reel together myself last summer, before I got hired at my current second job.  

So, I'm a little confused about WHY this film is set in the world of voice-over production, when it could just as easily have been set in the world of, say, fashion design or auto racing or championship skiing.  Any insular group of niche performers would have sufficed, any group of professionals that hire and fire, any corner of society where everyone seems to know everyone else, either because they're working together, sleeping together, or related (or any combination of those).

Let's focus first on what the film gets correct - the voice-over racket is one of those insular groups, where everyone knows everyone else's reputation (except for a few key non-knowings, but I'll get to that in a sec).  And people's fortunes rise and fall based on their reputation and their work ethics, plus a lucky break here and there.  Specifically, this is set "In a World" where the Grand Poobah of movie trailer work, Don LaFontaine has died, and no one is sure who's going to say his famous phrase in future trailers, or if that's even appropriate for anyone to do so.

ASIDE: Can we all agree to stop calling them "trailers"?  They're called that because they used to be shown AFTER the features, but no one's shown them after movies for decades.  They're always shown BEFORE the movies, so we should all start calling them "previews" instead of "trailers".  I'm going to make the switch right now, everyone else, please do the same, and delete the word "trailer" from your vocabulary, unless you're talking about a house on wheels or something you pull with a truck.  End of ASIDE.

But there are some things the film gets wrong - most glaringly, a hired voice-over artist fails to show up for a recording session, ostensibly because he has a sore throat, and the desperate sound mixers grab someone who they know is available to fill in on a track for a Hollywood preview.  First off, a professional voice artist, sick or not, would at least have called to reschedule, assuming he wanted to keep working on jobs like this in the future.  Secondly, he's contracted for the job, so according to union rules, that job is his unless he's officially fired.  Third, they can't just replace him on the spot, because again, union rules, they'd have to at least pay him a kill fee, and the studio didn't approve that additional expense OR the use of a replacement.  There would have been phone calls back and forth to agents, asking where the talent is, informing the studio that the talent didn't show up, voicemails asking for further instructions, etc. etc.  The studio guys would have no authority or even motivation to replace one voice-over artist with another - any deadline pressure would be felt by the movie studio, not the sound session guys.  

It's a contrivance, a way to push our main character forward, giving her an opportunity to succeed in the family business.  And there are many, many contrivances here, ones I can't talk about without giving away the plot twists, but there are so many missed connections and miscommunications, it's nearly beyond belief.  In a similar fashion, there's a fair amount of romantic comedy here, and in a similar type of rom-com shorthand, we the audience know that two characters are meant to fall for each other whenever they're having trouble getting on the same page.  You'd think if two people are having trouble getting in sync, we'd all just shrug and say, "Oh, well, guess that's not going to happen!" but we've all seen so many movies that we expect the reversals to follow.

And that's when this seems to turn into another by-the-numbers plot with a love triangle that's too easy to spot.  Other stuff happens, like a father learns to appreciate his daughters and stop putting them down, but mostly the characters' story arcs are just too predictable.  And there were a few plot threads that never got followed up on. 

Also starring Lake Bell (last seen in "No Strings Attached"), Fred Melamed (last seen in "The Dictator"), Rob Corddry (last seen in "Muppets Most Wanted"), Michaela Watkins (last seen in "Enough Said"), Ken Marino (last seen in "We're the Millers"), Nick Offerman (last seen in "22 Jump Street"), Demetri Martin (last seen in "Contagion"), Talulah Riley, Alexandra Holden, with cameos from Geena Davis (last seen in "Quick Change"), Cameron Diaz (last heard in "A Liar's Autobiography"), and Eva Longoria (last heard in "Arthur Christmas"). 

RATING: 5 out of 10 vocal exercises

No comments:

Post a Comment