The Voices

2014 dark comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A psychopath looks for love. And since this is a whimsical romantic comedy, his talking dog and cat help.

This is not a whimsical romantic comedy. It's a very dark but also very unique comedy, the kind of thing that is surely not for everybody even though I suspect Ryan Reynolds might be for everybody. He's flamboyantly terrifying, a freaky-deaky buffoon who stumbles through homicide like a Stooge poking somebody in both eyes. Sure, any director and actor can create a psychopath easily enough with a few dismemberment sound effects and the gruesome aftereffects of said dismemberment. But to make the viewer uneasy while showing the character eat pizza? That's really something. Reynolds also does a great job voicing the animals in this, appropriate since it seems that their talking is all in his head. Mr. Whiskers sounds like an Irish devil, Bosco the dog's got a sort of doofus act going on, and there's Bunny Monkey and a dying deer. Talking animals will always threaten to become just a little too precious, even when they're inspiring characters to kill, but this never falls into those traps. Of course, it might help that you get a scene where Mr. Whiskers is watching animal porn. The cat easily gets the best lines in this.

This is directed by Marjane Satrapi who did Persepolis and Chicken with Plums, the latter which I'd highly recommend. Actually, I'd recommend them both, but people have seen Persepolis. She nailed this sort of magical realism in Chicken with Plums, and although this is a little more mainstream, probably because of the appearance of Hollywood beefcake and future superhero Ryan Reynolds, it's still got that playful vibe. There's a cartoonish look to small-town America. There are colors that shouldn't exist outside of a little girl's wardrobe, and like Tim Burton--who this does, in a good way, recall--it makes the setting weirdly creepy. I'm not sure if there's any commentary in the way the factory where main character Jerry works looks, but the pink uniforms and the choreography during this cute little "Jerry and Fiona" song makes the place seem like it would be so much fun to work there that it might kill you.

The music is interesting. This isn't a musical at all, but there are a few cool interesting musical bits. There's a monkey jukebox thing near the end, there's a woman doing a karaoke cover of Wu Tang Clan's "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" (you know, the "Oh baby, I like it raw" one), and there's an Asian Elvis impersonator. Movies with Asian Elvis impersonators always get a boost. The very best musical moment is a great Bollywood-esque closing credits number that features most of the characters and a surprise guest who I won't mention because I don't want to give that kind of thing away.

This straddles the line between gruesome and whimsical so beautifully, a tough chore since those features aren't even adjacent. There's not even a line. I'd imagine this is going to be too dark for some people and too playful for others, but if you like dark comedies, I'd recommend it.

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