The movie "Great World of Sound" and its lead character, Martin (Pat Healy, who's a dead ringer for E! channel celebrity mocker Joel McHale), are practically one and the same. Quiet and unassuming, they both casually slip into plain view, barely causing a ripple. But nevertheless, they ultimately make their presence known, making you realize just how jacked-up your priorities would be if they weren't around.
Recently relocated with his artist girlfriend (Rebecca Mader) and broke as a Betamax player, Martin applies for a job at the titular record company, thinking his past experiences in radio would make him a good fit. He gets hired to travel from town to town scouting talent that the company assembles via newspaper ads. For these travels, Martin gets paired up with the boisterous, flamboyant Clarence (former "Matlock" sidekick Kene Holliday), whose tongue is as sharp as his wardrobe. Together, they hit the road, where they audition acts from the comfort of their motel rooms, getting money from so-called musicians and singers who hope that they will get in the studio and record some bona fide hits.
Sort of a Podunk "Boiler Room" with musical instruments, "Sound" gives us a desperate yet unfailingly optimistic view of the American Dream from both sides of the con game. Of course, Martin starts to figure out that Great World of Sound is nothing more than a scam for his oily boss (who is named Shank, by the way) to pilfer money from these poor saps. But Martin, who considers himself just as much of an innocent dreamer as the people he auditions, still attempts to help out a few of these suckers, even providing some cash of his own when a young, wide-eyed girl comes to him and Clarence, singing a "New National Anthem."
"Sound" is that rarest of independent film: a quaint, appreciative flick that doesn't have a snarling, cynical bone in its body. Co-writer/director (and N.C. School of the Arts graduate) Craig Zobel presents a sympathetic, recognizable view of the South filled with folk who are just trying, in some way, shape or form, to make something of themselves, to get by.
The movie's most enjoyable moments occur when Zobel has Healy and Holliday (as Martin and Clarence, of course) interacting with the real-live performers, many of them Zobel recruited as the record company does in the movie: through a newspaper ad. While this may smack of gimmickry (even more so, this may have people accusing Zobel of biting "Borat"), this gives Healy and Holliday the chance to wow us with their wondrous, low-key improv skills. This also shows off Zobel's flair for instilling authenticity in his story.
It's this kind of impressive simplicity that makes "Great World of Sound" a quaint marvel that slowly-but-surely bum-rushes your senses.