An ex-office worker becomes a ventriloquist, leading to a date with his unemployment counselor; but his quirky family and a gauche female friend may thwart his new career and love life.An ex-office worker becomes a ventriloquist, leading to a date with his unemployment counselor; but his quirky family and a gauche female friend may thwart his new career and love life.An ex-office worker becomes a ventriloquist, leading to a date with his unemployment counselor; but his quirky family and a gauche female friend may thwart his new career and love life.
Adrien Brody made this movie before his Oscar-winning portrayal of a gifted Jewish musician in "The Pianist." Here he is a young man, Steve, whose lifelong ambition (he's bordering on thirty) is to become a ventriloquist. He buys a dummy and takes lessons (Brody, who passed fairly well as a concert pianist in his better known film, actually did all the dummy tricks and ventriloquism here).
Steve lives at home with his mom (Jessica Walter) who is forever shoving food at everyone. His dad (Ron Leibman) is retired and he pursues a common hobby of men no longer gainfully employed: making scale model warships while watching hard core porn. Sister Heidi (Ileana Douglas) dreamed of becoming a singer. Her ambition crushed, largely by her scatterbrain mother, she is now a wedding planner, her first big job creating agita in the first degree. She's pursued by a clearly insane former fiance to her distress.
Steve's closest friend from high school days is rock singer Fangera (Milla Jovovich) who has a cum laude Master's in Public Crudity. Their relationship is platonic and Fangera is very albeit crazily devoted to her longtime buddy. Desperate for work for herself and her band, she passes herself off to Heidi as a klezmer specialist, exactly what the despairing wedding planner needs for her first big event. Of course she knows nothing about klezmer music and her immersion in studying that genre is a riot by itself. So is the payoff at the wedding.
Steve, fired from his job, meets employment counselor Lorena (Vera Farmiga) and sparks of all kind begin to fly. Lorena is a single mother with an adorable little girl and she's both attracted to Steve and shy about a commitment. Their relationship, which begins with a weird approach concocted by the barely sane Fangera, rolls back and forth and is kind of touching.
No need to say more about the plot. This fast-paced romantic comedy works with all the principal cast members playing off each other in an often funny and occasionally serious and meaningful way. Surprises are few but when has a ventriloquist's dummy been central to story development in any recent film?
The special features on the DVD are fun. Included is an interactive test in which the viewer answers a series of questions and then finds out what kind of dummy he or she is. I was ranked a ...hey, that's my personal business.
There's also a storyboard history of ventriloquism which points out that this entertainment form allowed, decades ago, a performer to "say" things through his dummy that would have been unacceptable directly from his mouth (including negative comments about politicians).
As usual, reading the credits closely paid off. The technical adviser was Paul Winchell and the assistant technical adviser...Jerry Mahoney. I think you have to be from my generation to appreciate that.
- Apr 7, 2004