Dummy

Critics Consensus

Dummy is a sweet family comedy that succeeds due to charming performances, even if the final product feels slightly undercooked.

71%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 34

74%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 7,872
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Movie Info

The sophomore effort from writer and director Greg Pritikin, who previously co-directed and acted in 1998's Totally Confused, Dummy stars Oscar winner Adrien Brody (The Pianist, Summer of Sam) as Steven, a recently unemployed ne'er-do-well who has difficulty expressing himself. Steven's best friend is Fanny, an aspiring singer played by Milla Jovovich (The Fifth Element, Resident Evil) who, along with Steven, is just looking for her niche. Eventually Fanny takes a shine to Yiddish music and Steven finds he has a knack for ventriloquism. Through his newfound talent, Steven discovers that he is able to overcome his social problems through his dummy and decides to try impressing and winning the heart of Lorena, played by Vera Farmiga (Autumn in New York, 15 Minutes). The winner of the Special Jury Prize at the 2003 Santa Barbara Film Festival, Dummy also stars Illeana Douglas and Jared Harris.

Cast

Adrien Brody
as Steven Schoichet
Jared Harris
as Michael
Helen Hanft
as Mrs. Gurkel
Adam LeFevre
as Theater Director
Poppi Kramer
as Jen Freed
Alan Demovsky
as Talking Mime
Lou Marini Jr.
as Unemployed Italian
Gabor Mobea
as Unemployed Frottager
Edward Hibbert
as Unemployed Actor
Lou Marini
as Unemployed Italian
Alan Semok
as Professor Parlepancia
Gabor Morea
as Unemployed Frottager
Jason Batchko
as Tardy Vent Student
Tom Plotkin
as Magic Store Clerk
Debbie Lynn Ross
as Le Bagel Waitress
Andy Senor
as Arab Caterer
Alix Korey
as Mrs. Freed
Paul Wallfish
as Fangora's Bandmate
Oren Kaplan
as Fangora's Bandmate
Paul Wallfisch
as Fangora's Band
Tim Otto
as Fangora's Bandmate
David Wm. Sims
as Fangora's Bandmate
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Critic Reviews for Dummy

All Critics (34) | Top Critics (11) | Fresh (24) | Rotten (10)

  • Definitely lives down to its name -- you can see the lips moving on this wooden thing.

    Sep 26, 2003 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • [T]he best ventriloquist -stalker -family-drama -romantic -comedy I've seen in, well maybe forever.

    Sep 15, 2003
  • Pritikin's shrewd comedy-drama catches a fine flock of family emotions on the wing, and not the over-exposed ones.

    Sep 12, 2003
  • What could have been a biting dark comedy is, instead, uninspired and generic.

    Sep 12, 2003 | Rating: 2/4
  • Brody is a real talent, and Illeana Douglas is a riot as his older sister.

    Sep 12, 2003 | Rating: 2.5/4
  • A mildly engaging addition to that curious sub-genre of American independent filmmaking, the whimsical comedy of Long Island alienation.

    Sep 11, 2003 | Rating: 3/5

Audience Reviews for Dummy

  • Mar 21, 2015
    A pretty good indie comedy with likable characters and some good laughs, nothing that makes you laugh out loud, but there was just something missing from this film. It just feels a little incomplete, like there was another layer of depth that was going to be added but it just got left out for whatever reason. While I think that, its core, with Steven, an extreme introvert, only managing to reveal his true personality through the use of his ventriloquist dummy, is a good one, I just don't think the movie goes as far with it as it could've. There was just something lacking from the film's emotional core. The film is well-cast. Adrien Brody is good, Milla Jovovich is good, Jessica Walter is good, Vera Farmiga is good, Illeana Douglas is good. In short, everyone is good here. The film is well-written, it's certainly very sweet, perhaps annoyingly so, but I think that this is well-intentioned. But you know what they say: 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions'. That has absolutely nothing to do with this film, I just did it to make the review a little longer. Yes, I'm pretty much admitting that I'm using filler. It's a conscious decision. Perhaps in my other reviews, if I reiterate points I've already made, then it's probably because I've forgotten about that. It happens, sometimes I go on so long that I don't want to re-read my reviews to see if I repeated too many points. Meh, what else is there to honestly say about this film? Adrien Brody and Very Farmiga are both good individually, and not that they lack chemistry, but they don't really come together as a believable couple. I just didn't seem to believe that these two would ever fall in love with each other. Yea, they may go out a couple of times and they may have some fun, but that's about it. It doesn't go any farther than first base, so to speak. I honestly felt that Steven would've been better off, if you wanted to tell a believable romance, with Fangora, his friend from school. They may be complete opposites, with Fangora being the outgoing, loud, aspiring punk rock artist to Steven's introvert, but I thought there was some good chemistry there between them. And it would've been infinitely more believable if Steven ended up with Fangora. Again, both Vera and Adrien are very good here, but their characters, when put together on film, are just bland as shit. You never get the sense that their relationship is going anywhere, despite the film telling you otherwise. Not to mention the over-reliance on the dummy itself. That's really the one thing that drew Vera's character to Adrien's. She thought he was funny because of his dummy. If it wasn't for the dummy, would Lorena have ever gone out with Steven? Doubtful. Steven's sweet and everything, but there's just nothing about him that would inspire anyone to want to go out with him. He's just someone who, and this is part of the narrative, blends into the background. And this is coming from someone who would describe himself as an introvert. How do you bill a serious relationship with a man who can only ever truly express himself and his true personality through a puppet. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but you cannot build a long-term relationship with someone like that. They'll take nothing seriously. People have to be able to separate the two and I think Steven is unable to do that. Why am I over-analyzing this so much? It's pointless in the long run. Honestly, the entire film, while solid, is too vanilla. It's lacking personality, which is ironic considering that's one of the main themes of the narrative. It's colorless. You will get a few chuckles out of this, the acting is good, and the writing is solid, but a great film this is not. Perfectly fine for a Netflix watch.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Sep 25, 2012
    *** out of **** Greg Pritikin's "Dummy" is more or less significantly unlike most films that deal with the narrative theme of ventriloquism in an attempt to generate both laughs and sympathy for the character who acts as the puppeteer. Perhaps it's only unlike the rest of them because Pritikin's direction and script are both very honest without allowing either to drift off into some sort of bizarre-o fantasy like the ventriloquist at the story's center has. Without the game efforts from its cast and Pritikin's genuine handling of the material, this could have easily been another missed opportunity with the premise, as it is. There's no denying that it's a fairly obvious flick, but it's a charming and engaging one that might just catch you off guard by how much you appreciate it akin to how much you actually like it (depending on your critical state-of-mind). Steven (Adrien Brody) has always wanted to become a ventriloquist. He's ten years out of high school, has just lost his dead-end job due to a copy machine malfunction, and still lives in his home-town, in his parents' house. He is inspired to become a ventriloquist by his socially awkward nature, as he feels very distant from everyone else. This is why after what must have been years of procrastination, he finally gives in and buys a dummy. His sister Heidi (Illena Douglas) and parents stop and stare while the two main women in his life - best friend Fanny (Milla Jovovich) and financial advisor Lorena (Vera Farmiga) - give him as much support as they possibly can. Through the dummy, Steven is able to unlock a part of his personality that seems to have been locked away for a while. He opens up to Lorena and attempts to court her through a series of awkward but charming dates; although she has issues of her own, being an unwed mother of a young child and all. Meanwhile, Heidi is having boyfriend (Jared Harris) problems; and Fanny just wants her garage punk rock band to finally take off. A lot of these characters are people who never left town and haven't gotten anywhere interesting in particular in their individual lives. They are the embodiment of some of our worst fears as young, ambitious human beings; because they come off as less young, and even less than ambitious. The script is repetitive but has a natural flow to it. You'll know whether you dig it or not early on; as the film keeps revealing new things about its characters as it goes along, thus abandoning the standard "throw everything at the viewer at once" cliché that most modern films have embodied. I can see the film being cast and made differently and not working in the slightest; so I'm just glad it gets by with what it's got. Brody is terrific as always in a post-"Pianist" performance, although I think it's Jovovich who's the real stand-out here. The scenes involving her jam sessions are energetic, and the ferocity carries out into a few scenes of genuine, heartfelt emotion. Why Jovovich is so bad in so many other films, I don't know. Maybe she, like her character Fanny, it merely having trouble finding her place. This is not a great film, but it will certainly resonate with a lot of people. The themes of isolation, puppetry, and the desire to be socially accepted in particular were ones I found most relatable, even if "Dummy" fails to truly cut ridiculously deep with any of them. But I can't complain. It's an interesting film that had the potential to give Pritikin plenty of indie cred, but apparently failed to do so (he's still found work, but nothing truly "of note", although I'm sure he's proud of his achievements). "Dummy" nonetheless sees him as a talented storyteller and director who does things his own way, ultimately succumbing to a familiar style but tackling topics with enough raw honesty for me to embrace it and still feel good about the whole thing. As I said, Jovovich is the highlight and her performance is probably the one thing I'll truly remember about this flick at the end of the day; but when I think of Fanny, I'll still be thinking of "Dummy", and here's a film that deserves to be regarded on some genuinely positive level.
    Ryan M Super Reviewer
  • May 14, 2012
    Its contrived and sometimes, er, wooden, but the characterizations and charm are better than the flaws in this typical romcom where the eternal nerd eventually wins the girl of his dreams. Adrian Brody is again good but the film is nearly stolen by a surprising and animated Milla Jovovich.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Aug 18, 2011
    Following Adrien Brody's Steven as he purchases himself a dummy to become a ventriloquist, "Dummy" not only has an interesting premise, it has a lot of heart and soul. Steven's introversion, the unusual friendship with the eccentric Fangora, his budding romance with his employment counselor Lorena, and cracks within his dysfunctional family are touched upon. The truthful and poignant performances of Brody, Milla Jovovich, Vera Farmiga, and Illeana Douglas give depth and relevancy to this quirky, coming-of-age film.
    Chihoe H Super Reviewer

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