In Theatres: 
Apr 15, 2011
Running Time: 
85 min

Dumbstruck, as most documentaries, can be found at your local art cinema.

 In Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, hundreds of people of all ages come to the Vent Haven Convention at the ventriloquism capital of the world. Even though the convention attendance is high in numbers, only a few performers stand out as truly unique. All of these entertainers, regardless of age, range from playing with their dummies as a hobby to performing on high-end cruise ships. But despite their success, they all have on thing in common: Their best friends are puppets. 

Meet the ventriloquists of Dumbstruck: There's the 13 year old, Dylan Burdette with his puppet, Reggie. Dylan's mother is supportive of his charming skills while his father hopes this is just a phase until Dylan decides to dirt bike with him. 30-something Kim Yeager is a Pageant Queen whose hidden talent has always been ventriloquism. With her years catching up on her, Kim's mother is worried that Kim will grow old without ever "settling down". Wilma Swartz is a middle-aged woman whose skills at ventriloquism serve as a distraction of her troubled past. Wilma is a deeply religious woman and can usually be found performing for special needs people and/or the elderly. Being a large veteran of the cruise circuit, Dan Horn is an extremely talented performer whose life of constant travel has taken its' toll. Without his wife and children by his side, Dan is torn to choose between his lifelong dream or his family. And finally, we have Terry Fator. The man who won America's Got Talent and was rewarded not only a million dollars, but also an extensive run in Las Vegas. Even with these constant struggles, these five performers have given it their all just to make us laugh. 

Dumbstruck is one of those documentaries that doesn't exactly break any ground but somehow finds a way to fill and break some hearts along the way. Watching Kim pick out outfits for her glamour-loving diva dummy causes a number of laughs, if not just for the charm this woman shares between herself and her work. However, watching all of these performers spend every hour of their day to perfect their act only to be met with disapproval is truly heartbreaking. But it is the character development and the charm of these hilarious people that bring us to both laughter and tears. While they may not be the funniest crowd around, one thing they do not run short on is charm. Charming is the best word to describe Dumbstruck in its' entirety. Charmingly delightful. 

The most aspiring factor of Dumbstruck is the fear to not show its' own faults. Success is found rarely in the business of ventriloquism and the majority of the Vent Haven Convention is living proof. Yet, even with success being such a rarity, one doesn't expect the lengths that director Mark Goffman goes to prove that not every dream is attainable. This is a risky move and raises many questions in the comedy business. In the long run, however, the purpose of a documentary is to raise questions and bring awareness to a situation unknown to most societies. Is it fair to see some fail when others literally have the largest opportunity handed to them? Absolutely not. But then again, no one said it would be easy. And absolutely no offense to Terry Fator, as he is truly one of the more, if not the most, talented ventriloquist I have ever seen. 

With little shame to hide from its' audience, Dumbstruck prides itself in showing both the smiles and heartbreaks found in the industry of making others laugh. 

Ryan Sterritt
Review by Ryan Sterritt
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