Tongue-in-cheek does not quite work alongside murderous intentions. The Voices stumbles over that right out of the gate. As Jerry Hickfang (Ryan Reynolds) stuffs almost an entire slice of pepperoni pizza into his mouth, we are meant to chuckle lightly. The camera lingers there for more time than necessary. Hickfang is similar to that of a gerbil, nibbling away with bite after bite. Reynolds’ patented brand of humour falls on deaf ears once again. His puppy dog eyes can only carry him so far, and if it carried him any further than mediocrity, then colour me impressed. His role as a psychotic, accidental serial killer is ripe for his brand of entertainment but does not prevail for one crucial reason…
Reynolds is of no particular interest. He plays the weird man with the normal, outward persona and the manic, hidden terror. His spree of murder is accidental, so we can retain the likeable charms his character seemingly has. He converses with his cat and dog, putting shoddy accents on to provide extensions of his own personality. It is not written with much strength, none of the dialogue is. The point of most of these interactions is to be awkward. But being awkward and feeling awkward are two very different states. The Voices attempts to provide interactions that, for Jerry, are an uphill struggle. For us audience members, it is a struggle to get through. They are uncomfortable, but not because Jerry is a strange character, it is instead caused by poor writing.
Cornered by this poor writing, director Marjane Satrapi lashes out with wild and unprovoked moments of vivid scene-breaking moments. The contrast between the Chinese Elvis impersonator and a karaoke night with Gemma Arterton and Anna Kendrick are brief and boring. They are meaningless, there only to drive the plot to some happenstance, blundering conclusion. Bad people take advantage of a boring lead, and we’re meant to feel sympathy for at least one of them. Fiona (Arterton) goes from disinterested to overwhelmed with emotion for Jerry in a matter of scenes. Easy to see why, but the writing does not allow us to realise this ourselves, it is a sudden shift that never makes much sense. Pacing is crucial to this blurring of comedy and horror, and The Voices never quite gets the mixture correct. Its moments of horror have no comedy, and its attempts at humour have none of the underlying terror found elsewhere. It is one or the other, when it really should be both at the same time.
Really, The Voices can only commentate on the personal preference Satrapi has for dogs over cats. That is why the cat is a swear-heavy Scot, and the dog a good-natured friend of man. Nutty and loopy, but that branch of American-led humour that doesn’t gel well with me. There is no subtlety to be found, many of the jokes are expected, easy to spot and truly underwhelming. Miserably uninspired, even when it uses schizophrenia as an excuse to pump the narrative full of vivid imagery and hallucinations. Cute and empty, its heart is in the right place but there isn’t a moment within The Voices that strikes me as ultimately rewarding or interesting.