Review Black comedy
THE VOICES (NC16)
104 minutes/Opens tomorrow/***
The story: Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) works in the shipping department of a plumbing supplies company. He sees therapist Dr Warren (Jacki Weaver), who is treating him for delusions. He hears his pets and stuffed toys speak, with some telling him to give in to his darker impulses. He grows fond of co-workers Fiona (Gemma Arterton) and Lisa (Anna Kendrick), but fears the consequences if they come too close.
Imagine what Ted (2012) would be like if, instead of taking cheap shots at women and minorities, the talking bear tells his owner to act out the misogynistic violence underlying the jokes.
On that score, this movie about male impotency (in various senses of the word) translated into murderous rage has never been more relevant.
Ted and too many so-called comedies coming out today are thinly disguised diatribes about women and any group with the audacity to be neither white nor male. And judging by Ted's success at the box office, it is a message that is finding an audience.
The Voices also speaks to the female phobia about meeting men - you never know who might turn out to be a serial killer.
Jerry (Reynolds) is a low-level blue-collar worker who appears to be hearing voices, a problem for which Dr Warren (Weaver) recommends medication. He believes he is a nice guy. But his pet cat Mr Whiskers urges him to give in to his urge to kill, while his dog Bosco argues against it.
Iranian-American director Marjane Satrapi, who broke out with the girl-versus-traditions animation feature Persepolis (2007), appears to be the perfect choice to helm this bleak and bloody satire on the fractured state of the modern male psyche.
It is written by Michael R. Perry, who helped pen television shows such as House M.D. and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
However, too much of the potential for sharp observation is squandered on meandering backstory and overlong back-and-forths between Jerry and his talking pets.
If there is a story that cried out for less of the main character and more ensemble acting, this is it. The film might have been better served if it was told from Lisa's or Fiona's viewpoint instead of Jerry's.
Perhaps the lure of making Jerry a well-rounded person, worthy of pity, proved too strong for the empathetic Satrapi.
We can at least be thankful that she did not do as Seth MacFarlane did in Ted - full-on hate disguised as offensive humour is much less fun to watch.