Dummy
2003
Steven (Adrien Brody), a socially inept oddball who struggles to express himself, learns to communicate with the world through his dummy and the art of ventriloquism in this quirky comedy from writer-director Greg Pritikin. Cast against type, supermodel Milla Jovovich also stars as Steven's gauche best friend, Fangora, an aspiring Yiddish punk-folk singer, while Illeana Douglas, Jessica Walter and Ron Leibman portray Steven's exasperating family.

Scott Hardie: “It ruled.”

This is a movie at war with itself. Like its introverted protagonist, who hides behind a ventriloquist's dummy when he feels social pressure, it leans on caricatures, cheap jokes, and implausible setups when the film lurking within is uncommonly sweet, charming, and funny. More scenes of Vedra Farmiga being a vulnerable single mom (the sweet), Adrien Brody gently coming out of his shell (the charming), and Milla Jovovich acting like a clueless teenager throwing a temper tantrum (the funny) would have helped the film. Instead it wastes time on family dysfunction that would make for a boring episode of Dr. Phil, and forces its characters to do things wildly uncharacteristic and unlikely (such as the "thank you" note) to set up scenes of contrived sympathy. Did Ben Stiller contribute to this script? Farmiga, Brody, and Jovovich are captivating, giving nuanced performances that deserve to be seen by wider audiences, and Illeana Douglas even manages to do well when the screenplay's on her side. I recommend this film despite its terribly awkward passages and overeager menu system (you think Jeff Dunham made contributions?). At heart, it's a charming little gem.

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