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All Critics (28)
| Top Critics (12)
| Fresh (20)
| Rotten (8)
Quirky, if uneven.
The world of ventriloquists is a fascinating one (especially if you, too, once had your own mail-order Mortimer Snerd dummy). And it comes to real life in the gentle documentary "Dumbstruck."
"Dumbstruck" is a documentary tailor-made for dummies and those who love them dearly.
What a bunch of dummies.
An earnest but undeniably eye-rolling documentary about the denizens of this odd pocket of show business.
The writer and director, Mark Goffman, sticks to a no-frills style that makes the film feel longer than its 1 hour 24 minutes.
While the filmmakers do a good job showcasing their subjects' talents, I found the movie a bit lacking in exploring their personal lives and motivations.
I imagine there is an audience that's dying to find out where the next great ventriloquist is coming from, but "Dumbstruck" does not have much appeal for folks who aren't already fascinated by this topic.
Doesn't plumb much below the surface of the subject, but remains an interesting curiosity.
"Dumbstruck" will give you an appreciation in the effort and talent needed to be a ventriloquist.
Instead of shooting for real insight, the smoothly-edited doc maintains a pleasant course, as troubled artists continually navigate between compromise and concession.
Dumbstruck actually pays more convincing tribute to those willing to honor their interior calling regardless of the hardship.
Another wedge of American culture is tilled in this documentary, which starts at the VentHaven Convention of Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky, an annual meeting place for the film's five subjects. The film certainly hinges on their individual stories, each aptly tragic. At the crux is 2007 winner of America's Got Talent Terry Fator, who quickly rises from obscurity to become one of Forbes top ten best paid comedians. His talent and specific skill for singing hauntingly beautiful odes to Etta James, Louis Armstrong, and Guns n' Roses makes him the most interesting and watchable of the motley crew. We're also given introspective looks into lesser known ventriloquists such as cruise ship hopper Dan Horn, obviously the best manipulator in the business, with realistic facial expressions and mannerisms. The quirkiest is former Miss. Ohio pageant winner Kim Yeager, who is not as talented as her counterparts, always trying to get a job on the lucrative cruise ship circuit, or leave it all behind and finally settle down in Cincinnati. Quick flashes of a thirteen year old boy with a black dummy, which doesn't fit in any discernible way, and a woman who resembles a bird and speaks like a lost alien being are thrown in as filler throughout. Nothing is truly revealed or discovered about the art of ventriloquism, though they sometimes say encouraging things to one another about their skills. We do see inside the dummies, the vast props and things they must buy to accommodate them, and the affects of a life that revolves around playing with dolls. Yes, the characters all have their own obstacles to overcome, but none of their emotions are mined. We never see the depth of the father-son relationship concerning the thirteen year old and his masculine inclined father, or the desperation behind the fading beauty queen's lackluster act. It's not boring, but it could have been much better and culturally informative.
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