Starring: Lake Bell, Fred Melamed, Ken Marino
Directed by: Lake Bell (debut)
Written by: Lake Bell (debut)

Satirical comedy is such a challenging genre to write, which is why when someone actually gets a tight grasp around their ideas without having to strain too much to make it funny, said writer is due some credit.

So is the case with actress Lake Bell (“It’s Complicate”) and her directorial debut “In A World,” a creative and often witty film that starts off strong before pumping the breaks midway. Before its slow descent into a more ordinary narrative, however, Bell is able to introduce audiences to an intriguing world very few people get the chance to see. It’s a clever look into part of the entertainment industry that literally speaks for itself.

In “In a World,” Bell stars as Carol Solomon, a struggling vocal coach who gets a break in her career when she books a gig to do a voice-over for a movie trailer. It’s a close-knit industry her father Sam (Fred Melamad) and the real-life (and now deceased) Don LaFontaine have monopolized for years, but one that is looking for a fresh new voice to lead a new generation of professional narrators. Hoping to be that voice, she must find a way to prove to her father (and studio honchos) that a female voice can flourish in a business just as well as any man.

As a writer, Bell’s script is filled with crafty cynicism and a sweetness that fits in well with a story that really doesn’t try be offensive in any way. More often than not (especially in the first half), the subtle jokes hit their target and Bell and company deliver their lines with a sort of awkward charm. Actors including Ken Marino, Rob Corddry, and Nick Offerman (all of whom have worked with Bell on the TV series “Children’s Hospital”) add to the gawkiness of the roster and do it effortlessly. As Carol’s father, Melamed is perfectly cast as the bass-voiced legend that is fine with the way the good-old-boy industry works.

While the voiceover industry and the struggles Carol faces are the most interesting aspects of the film, Bell tosses in a secondary storyline that follows her sister’s marital problem, which doesn’t quite work in the grand scheme of things. The subplot is funny, but takes away from what should have been the real focus of the story. Still, Bell and her cast have some hilarious one-liners and there’s enough social commentary about the way cutthroat Hollywood works to keep the film from sputtering out completely in the final act.

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