Dummy (DVD)

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Dummy (DVD)

What kind of a movie gets raucously heckled by its own audio commentary? Only a shaggy little quirk-fest like Dummy, whose DVD boasts both a charismatic Academy Award winner in an eccentric lead role and an audio commentary featuring two-time Ventriloquist Of The Year Jeff Dunham and his professional foils Walter and Peanut. The latter two, needless to say, are more interested in cracking wise than in discussing the nuances of Greg Pritikin's low-key character study. As the audio commentary candidly points out, Dummy was filmed several years before Adrien Brody's breakthrough in The Pianist, but it lingered on a shelf until his big win made a DVD release inevitable. His natural charisma muffled, Brody stars as an anxious, introverted misfit who lives with his parents; when he purchases a ventriloquist's dummy, it functions as social crutch, cherished companion, and psychological release valve. Urged on by fellow misfit and only friend Milla Jovovich, Brody begins romantically pursuing a pretty single mother (Vera Farmiga) who works at the unemployment office. Meanwhile, Brody's frustrated sister (Illeana Douglas) works as a wedding planner in spite of her own ill-fated engagement to Jared Harris, a boozy accountant and amateur actor trying to win her back. Brody's lanky frame seems to contract to fit the diminished expectations of his frustrated existence. At first, it seems like a screenwriter's contrivance that an attractive, kind woman like Farmiga could be romantically interested in an overt loser like Brody, but as his character's confidence builds and he grows more comfortable in his own skin, Farmiga's affection for him becomes more plausible. Dummy affords Brody and Jovovich some unique challenges: Though he won't make anyone forget Willie Tyler or Lester, Brody is credible both as a loser and as a ventriloquist (the two do sometimes overlap), while part-time chanteuse Jovovich gets to sing both punk and klezmer. Enjoying Dummy requires patience with rambling narratives and free-floating quirkiness, but the film's strong performances, bittersweet tone, and firm grasp on its suburban milieu make it probable that this weird little movie will find a good home in the hearts and minds of a small but appreciative cult.

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