Dumbstruck (DVD Review)23 Jul, 2011 By: Billy Gil
Box Office $0.02 million
‘PG’ for brief suggestive humor.
From Being John Malkovich to Magic to “Mr. Show,” film and TV have spoofed or exploited ventriloquism without necessarily exploring the phenomenon as it truly exists. Documentary Dumbstruck does just that in a respectful, intriguing and often touching way.
The film follows five ventriloquists: successful Dan Horn, who travels on cruise ships to the detriment of his marriage; former security guard Wilma Swartz; beauty queen Kim Yeager; tween ventriloquist Dylan Burdette; and megafamous Terry Fator, who won $1 million and a show in Las Vegas on “America’s Got Talent.”
Juxtaposing these five stories paints a dynamic portrait of ventriloquism, a form of entertainment that, due to Fator’s success, probably hasn’t seen this much attention since the Vaudeville days. Anyone who’s ever performed live can empathize with Yeager, as she struggles to even get an audience with a cruise director; likewise, the film is relatable on a human level, as Swartz stays positive despite her sad family story and financial woes, or as shy Burdette struggles to come into his own, pimp puppet in hand, while his father scratches his head, wondering why he doesn’t play football like other boys.
Like fellow doc Spellbound, which winningly exposed the world of spelling bees, Dumbstruck works not because of its subject, but its people.