The VoicesThe Voices is the type of movie you root for.

If you see a lot of films and are disappointed by far too many of them, you savor the hidden gem, the flick tucked away in the schedule of a film festival, the one without a trailer, with only a faint whispered positive word-of-mouth. Generally, you’re hooked from the first scene as the director invites you into a corner of the world you’ve often walked by, but never entered. Once inside this director’s world, you don’t want to leave. That’s a telling sign for this type of movie. Unlike so many films produced today, there overlooked treasures seem to end too quickly. You enter the theater as a jaundiced viewer; you leave as a cheerleader, hoping that the film will find its audience.

Last year at the Berlin Fantasy Filmfest, Cheap Thrills was that movie. So far this year, The Voices is the surprise to savor, the one to encourage friends to see. As you find yourself describing the movie with phrases like “talking dog,” “sociopathic cat,” and “severed head in the refrigerator,” you may cut the synopsis short and simply say, “You have to see it.”

Marjane Satrapi, best known for turning her autobiographical graphic novel Persepolis into an animated film of a child growing up during the Iranian revolution, channels David Lynch on the day he met Molly, in actualizing an alternately sweet and sardonic, but always subversive screenplay by Michael R. Perry. Satrapi’s direction is masterful as she steers the film on the razor edge between the beautiful madness of fantasy and the horrible degradation of reality. The contributions from the production design and art departments give the film its over-the-top, off-your-meds, color-bursting view of the world as you want it. It’s a place where working at the Milton Fixture and Faucet Factory is the best job in the world, and living over an abandoned bowling alley is better than any McMansion.

Olivier Bernet’s music also contributes mightily to the mood, beginning with the toe-tapping opening number that extols the virtues of Milton, the town where Jerry Hickfang (Ryan Reynolds) works in the Packing and Shipping department of the aforementioned factory and lives above that abandoned bowling alley. What separates Jerry from most other blue collar workers is that he shares his residence with a cat, Mr. Whiskers, and a dog, Bosco, both of whom can talk. Mr. Whiskers is a homicidal maniac with a Scottish accent, while Bosco is more of a Deputy Dog, aw shucks kind of companion.

Jerry’s had a rough life, but he remains cheerful and mostly taking his prescriptions as he tells his psychiatrist (Jacki Weaver). His boss assures Jerry that he had nothing but good things to say to the court and then picks him as the department’s volunteer to the office picnic organizing committee. Also on the committee is the office hottie, Fiona (Gamma Arterton) from Accounting. One sweet conga line later, Jerry seems to be shuffle stepping in clover, but Fiona’s affections are a bit more fickle, and Jerry soon finds himself stood up and solo watching the worst Chinese Elvis impersonator in the world.

Misunderstandings lead to mistakes, and the next thing you know Jerry is walking out of the local hardware store with a set of hacksaws and the super-size pack of plastic containers. Then it’s on to the next girl in Accounting, Lisa, also known as Anna Kendrick, in still another role that shows her as America’s Real Sweetheart. Jerry just can’t catch a break, and before you know it, his refrigerator is filling up, and even Bosco the Dog has some grave doubts about Jerry really being a good person.

Reynolds is wonderful as Jerry, as Mr. Whiskers, and as Bosco. He even turns in a brilliant cameo as a deer that crashes through his windshield. We willingly fall in line behind his joyful march down, down, down into madness. Arterton and Kendrick are fantastic as well. By the time Jesus Christ joins the cast for the big musical finale, you know you are watching something sublime.

Four stars.

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