Aside from a bunch of big budget blockbuster animated features, 2012 had a surprising amount of voice over performances in film. It seems like voice overs are back in a big way. This does not mean that films are lazily relying on narration to cover for plot holes. It means that screenwriters are creating characters that communicate to the audience even when they aren't onscreen. Here are the best voice acting performances of 2012. Each film can only have one nominee in the actual ranked category; otherwise, Brave, Paranorman, and Wreck-It Ralph could have filled up the whole thing.
- Jodelle Ferland, Paranorman
- Irrfan Khan, Life of Pi
- Seth MacFarlane, Ted
- John C. Reilly, Wreck-It Ralph
- Emma Thompson, Brave
- Julie Walters, Brave
6: Carol Burnett, The Secret World of Arrietty
It's hard enough to provide the voice to an animated villain. You have to create a believable threat even if the character design is intentionally ludicrous. Now imagine recreating a character in a translated version of a well-loved animated film. Carol Burnett finds the core truth of Hara, the woman obsessed with rumors of miniature people who live under the floors of a house, and plays her as the hero of her own story. Her villainy is palpable because you never doubt that Hara believes capturing the little people is the right thing to do.
5: Kodi Smit-McPhee, ParaNorman
Call this the nostalgia pick. I was the weird horror nerd in elementary school, watching late night airings of B-minus pictures on TV at night. Kodi Smit-McPhee finds a really believable voice for the off-beat Norman that allows the central premise of the film, Norman communicating with the dead, to come alive. Even if the narrative of the film is underplayed and off kilter, Smit-McPhee builds a great arc with his voice over performance.
4: Pat Healy, Compliance
The reason Compliance works as well as it does is Pat Healy. He plays the voice of Officer Daniels, a police officer instructing a fast food restaurant manager on how to conduct the preliminary part of a big investigation. Healy is authoritative enough to establish believability for the story but just aggressive and manipulative enough to cue the audience into what's really going on. The tension of Compliance comes from the disconnect between the fast food workers' reactions to Officer Daniels' voice on the phone and the audience's reaction to his actual tone and intentions. Healy more than delivers.
3: Kelly MacDonald, Brave
Kelly MacDonald has the privilege of bringing to life the first Pixar princess. She nails it. Her Merida is a wild, sharp character who knows how to get what she wants. The princess is still young and her vocal quality and speech patterns reflect that. You can hear the eye rolls even if you close your eyes. Then when the actual story of Brave kicks in, Merida becomes a full person. It's a lovely transformation.
2: Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
There's a story going around that writer/director Benh Zeitlin asked Quvenzhane Wallis to help him rewrite her voice over work in Beasts of the Southern Wild. What Wallis brings to the film is authenticity. True, she's onscreen living and breathing the Bathtub, but the narration through her mind of what's happening and how the community works is why the film is a success. Wallis' voice is sweet and unaffected, telling the stories of Aurochs and folk biology in an earnest way.
1: Sarah Silverman, Wreck-It Ralph
Sarah Silverman turned a really over the top cart-racing video game character into an empathetic figure in Wreck-It Ralph. There is no artifice to her performance as Vanellope. This is clearly a child in a game who has no friends. She's developed a defensive tone and a sharp wit to give her something to fall back on. Silverman masterfully pulls back the layers as the story and her character evolve until you have no choice but to fall in love with the buggy character.
So those are my top voice over performances in film from 2012. What do you think? Sound off below.