The Voices

Serial killers aren’t inherently funny. If you see on the news that a serial killer has, well, murdered a bunch of people — unless you’re one sadistic person — you don’t start laughing about it. This makes me wonder why movies like The Voices work so effectively. Perhaps it’s because, like all good comedy, it plays against our expectations. Since serial killers aren’t funny, making a funny movie about them is doubly effective. Or something.

Ryan Reynolds is our lead, here playing only one human role but also voicing several animals. The human is Jerry, a pretty nice man who also happens to be pretty mentally ill. He visits a psychiatrist (Jackie Weaver) regularly, has been prescribed anti-psychotic medications, and has been given an easy job putting together random bathroom stuff — tubs, toilets, etc. — in an attempt to let him live a fairly regular life. But he doesn’t take his medications and he lies to his psychiatrist. He hears voices; his dog and his cat talk to him whenever he’s at home. Reynolds voices both of these, as well as a couple of more minor characters scattered throughout.

The cat is evil, telling him to give into his animal instincts and murder people. The dog is kinder, telling Jerry that he’s a good guy (who eventually winds up getting into a bad situation). Jerry has a crush on a girl at work, Fiona (Gemma Arterton), even though she has no interest in him. There is a girl who likes him, Lisa (Anna Kendrick). You’ll probably be able to figure out how all this goes based on the fact that I’ve already said “serial killer” a couple of times, and also there’s that whole “cat who wants Jerry to murder people” thing.

Things eventually get out of hand, more and more people wind up dead, and Jerry remains a likable man who finds himself in a situation he wishes he wasn’t in. The Voices is a black comedy, mostly, one that doesn’t take its situation all that seriously — you’re supposed to laugh — even though it’s primarily about a mentally ill serial killer. A different screenplay helmed by a different director gives us a dark, serious movie. But this is a comedy, albeit one that’s not going to appeal to everyone.

The Voices is at its best when it focuses on the banter between Jerry and his animals. That’s when the film gets crazy and weird. In a world filled with movies that are just slight variations on the norm, a movie like this one comes along and blows our expectations out of the water by delivering something fresh, inventive, exciting, and genuinely funny. It’s safe to say that I had a really good time with The Voices.

What’s most surprising about The Voices is that it makes us care about Jerry, a man who just happens to be involved in this serial killer plot. It’s not his fault, mostly, and many of the things wind up being accidents — or do they just look like accidents? — so we wind up feeling like he’s a victim, too. If there’s a villain, it’s the cat, who is a manifestation of what I can only assume is supposed to be schizophrenia. The film isn’t really “about” mental illness or bringing awareness to it, so don’t expect that, but just because it’s light on purpose doesn’t mean it isn’t a ton of fun.

Ryan Reynolds turns in one of his better performances, blending charm, awkwardness, and a little bit of insanity as we watch his descent into madness. He’s done voice work in the past, too, but nothing quite like the various voices he has to give us here. The cat is Scottish, for instance. Gemma Arterton and Anna Kendrick are mostly just there to be played off, but they’re fun enough in limited roles.

The Voices is a great success — one of those truly weird movies that probably get overhyped by people like me simply for being “different” — that gives us a hilarious dark comedy about a man whose cat tells him to murder people. If that simple hook doesn’t sound enjoyable to you, then The Voices is not something that you’re going to enjoy. For someone like me, it’s a very fun movie. Ryan Reynolds is great, and The Voices is something that I absolutely recommend you see.

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