This weekend, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, the sequel to one of the worst comedies I’ve ever seen in my life, played at 3,633 theaters across our glorious nation. Now, considering that sequels are almost unequivocally worse than originals and that the first Paul Blart was about as entertaining as getting your fingers shut in a car door over and over again for 90 minutes, I’m going to assume Mall Cop 2 is absolutely insufferable. Despite this, due to the dearth of comedies in theaters right now, you might be considering going to see it. Well, good news! I have a film that will fulfill your itch for comedy and not subject you to an hour and a half of hell on earth: The Voices.
The film, helmed by Persepolis graphic novelist/director Marjane Satrapi, stars Ryan Reynolds as Jerry, a nice, smiley guy working at a bathtub factory. He seems normal during the day, but when he goes back to his apartment, he hears voices in the guises of his friendly dog Bosco and malicious cat Mr. Whiskers. Jerry soon falls for office hottie Fiona (Gemma Arterton), but after he gets stood up on a dinner date, his seemingly normal life starts to fall to pieces.
I’m going to keep from spoiling anything more than that. I will say, however, that The Voices is an incredibly black comedy that might not appeal to everyone (especially not people who think they might enjoy Paul Blart, so I may have been slightly misleading in the beginning). It’s got talking roadkill and talking heads, and some scenes get so dark, you might start to question why you are laughing in the first place.
But, nonetheless, laugh I did! I’ve always kind of thought of Ryan Reynolds as a less-cool Ryan Gosling who usually opts to star in absolute tripe, but he’s actually on top of his game here. For a movie like The Voices to work, the homicidal character at the apex of the film has to be likeable even while performing despicable acts, and Reynolds nails this perfectly. As for the supporting cast, Gemma Arterton does well enough and Anna Kendrick is her normal charming self. But we spend most of the film with Reynolds, and he does a great job carrying the show (as he did in the underappreciated Buried back in 2010).
Some credit has to go to writer Michael Perry, who has mostly worked in television throughout his career. The script is original and impossible to pigeonhole; Perry dabbles in silly humor, gruesome drama and genuine suspense throughout the film. This can make the film feel disjointed at times, like during a shockingly bleak flashback of Jerry’s childhood, but it generally works. It also makes Jerry an interesting character, and it’s easy to feel pity and sympathy for him.
Satrapi contributes to the film’s odd feel, as well. Early scenes in the bathtub factory are awash in color and happiness, making later, darker moments seem even more pitch-black. There’s also an interesting dynamic in what Reynolds’ character sees when off his medication and what is happening in real life; it could’ve come off as puzzling, but it actually works really well.
It’s not always perfect; it’s a little overlong and the last half-hour gets to be pretty predictable, but as a whole, I was pleasantly surprised by The Voices, considering the lack of hype I had heard about it beforehand. If you like your comedy pitch-black and feel like watching something a bit different, it should do the trick.
Zach Johnson can be reached at email@example.com, or on his Twitter page,@zachandforth.