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Movie Review: Dumbstruck
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DIRECTED BY: Mark Goffman
STARRING: Terry Fator, Dan Horn, Kim Yeager, Wilma Swartz, Dylan Burdette
Official Website
RELEASE DATE: April 15, 2011 (limited)

Every once in a while you see a movie that makes your day. One that inspires you, makes you laugh, and leaves you with a smile on your face. Dumbstruck is that kind of movie.

The documentary opens up in Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky at the Vent Haven ventriloquism convention where swarms of ventriloquists gather together, take part in various events, network, and sometimes perform in front of their peers. It is here where we meet most of the primary focuses of the movie — Dan Horn, Kim Yeager, Dylan Burdette, and Wilma Swartz — who we’re about to follow for the next year of their lives, watching to see what paths they travel and where their passion for ventriloquism takes them next.

Horn is the most experienced and well-traveled of the group — a popular cruise ship performer (one of the best gigs a ventriloquist can land) who has appeared on David Letterman’s Late Show, among others. Yeager is a former beauty queen who performs in school assemblies and is trying desperately to make ventriloquism her career, hopefully by landing a cruise ship job like Dan’s. Young Dylan is a 13-year-old up-and-comer who hopes to one day be a famous act, but has a long way while trying to prove to his father that it’s just as good a path as playing sports would be. Finally we have Wilma, a tall and lovable woman who’s struggling financially and facing eviction, and who only really feels “home” when she’s with her ventriloquist friends or performing in senior citizen homes.

The fifth and most recognized focus of the doc is none other than Terry Fator, a winner of America’s Got Talent who shocked and amazed people with his abilities while on the show and eventually went on to sign the biggest deal in Las Vegas history. His story is incredible and it’s truly inspiring to see where he came from and how he rose to such great heights

Over the course of Dumbstruck we follow these five unique individuals, from the highs of Fator signing his historical deal to the lows of Swartz’s eviction scare. It’s a movie about ventriloquist, but it’s not just about ventriloquism; it’s about the struggle of trying to find a career out of something so out-of-the-ordinary, the successes and failures, and the many difficulties these people face in their everyday lives while trying to do what they love so much…including trying to win the acceptance and support of their loved ones.

Going in I figured this documentary would just be about some people and their puppets showing what they can do, and honestly, I was okay with this because good ventriloquists are incredibly entertaining talents. But once I realized there was so much more heart and soul to the film is when I fell in love with it and the stories it tells. You can’t help but want to see all of them succeed and find happiness, and you feel their pain when things don’t go right. Any movie that acquires an emotional investment from its viewers is one worth seeing.

And even though there is a strong amount of emotion that goes into Dumbstruck, don’t think that means the funny is missing. There were plenty of laughs and comical moments to be had and enjoyed throughout, especially when watching how good Fator and Horn are when they perform.

Dumbstruck is a documentary that shouldn’t be missed. It’s a great mixture of comedy and drama, and it’s filled with compelling stories that you’ll want to keep following to see how things go. It all culminates a year after the movie begins, right back where it started at the Vent Haven convention…where everyone has returned to where they truly belong.


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