The Voices is about an insane factory worker, Jerry Hickfang (Ryan Reynolds), who has imaginary conversations with his cat and dog. The cat, for whatever reason, sounds sort of like a Mike Meyers caricature of a Scotsman, while the dog speaks in a gruff timbre that’s reminiscent of the voice that the Christopher Guest character uses to speak with his pet in Best in Show. Does Jerry have a thing for comedy? There’s no other indication that he does, as these voices are here for their own sake, presumably to amuse the audience—an aim they would spectacularly fail to serve even if the film weren’t so wrong-headed. During his interludes with his animals, Jerry’s meant to be taken as a lovable doof with an edge; his first name isn’t an accident, as the films of Jerry Lewis would appear to be an inspiration for Reynolds’s cloying, tone-deaf shtick. The actor appears to misunderstand Lewis as much as the great artist’s detractors, as he fails to find the hard intelligence, or the pathos, that’s underneath the pitifulness.
To be fair to Reynolds, there’s probably no surviving The Voices. That task would surmount even brilliant clowns like Lewis or Jim Carrey. The problem, beyond a general hideous un-funniness, is that the film’s premise is deeply repulsive. For about half of the film, Jerry’s insanity is meant to be kind of cute. For the other half, he’s butchering the women who work with him, brutally, in scenes that are staged as horror set pieces, and are performed by the female actors with an according intensity. Yet these moments are played by Reynolds, disastrously, with the same unvarying sense of baby-ish impassiveness that he brings to the “comedic” scenes. An embarrassing musical number over the end credits finally signals to the audience what director Marjane Satrapi is striving for: an ironic tone in which the cheeriness of her hero’s fantasies contrasts devastatingly with the rampage he’s wrought in reality. An ambition that’s also suggested by the clichéd stylizing of the sets, such as bold colors to announce Jerry’s workplace, unsurprisingly, as a den of broken, conformist dreams. But that barely scans. For most of the running time, one mistakes Jerry’s callousness for the filmmakers’.