Greetings, everyone. I’m new to the IVS (I just joined late last year), but I hope to write reviews of ventriloquism-related movies here as I watch or re-watch them. I hope you all enjoy what I have to say about these films which are of interest to the ventriloquist community.
I recently watched the film I’m No Dummy again the other day, so it’s fresh in my mind, and I thought now might be a good time to review it. This is a film that most likely needs no introduction whatsoever, but I will give a little bit of detail, anyway.
I’m No Dummy is a documentary about ventriloquism directed by Bryan W. Simon and released in 2009. It juxtaposes interviews with well-known ventriloquists and vent experts with clips of performances drawn from decades of films, TV programs, and live shows. The movie covers topics such as the illusion of life, lip control, the future of ventriloquism, and what attracted various vents to the art form, as well as segments devoted to Jimmy Nelson, Paul Winchell, Edgar Bergen, and Señor Wences, respectively.
Here is just a sample of the vents who appear in the movie: Jeff Dunham, Jay Johnson, Lynn Trefzger-Joy, the late Jimmy Nelson, Willie Tyler, Ken Groves, Mallory Lewis, Allan Blumenstyk, Ronn Lucas, and Otto Petersen. Ventriloquism experts who appear include Tom Ladshaw, Lisa Sweasy, Stevö Schuling, and Dr. David Goldblatt. In other words, pretty much a who’s who of figures in the ventriloquist community – along with their own figures! Terry Fator is notably absent, because his vent career was just getting started at the time the film was made.
What is most impressive about I’m No Dummy is how it manages to pack in so much information and insight while retaining a breezy, light-hearted tone throughout. It’s only eighty-four minutes long, but is absolutely packed with value, and it’s clear the cast and filmmakers had a lot of fun making it. Another impressive thing about the movie is just how many big-name vents are in it. Can you imagine a documentary about any other subject having such a high percentage of greats from that field in it?
I like documentaries myself, but I think that even people who don’t typically enjoy them will find I’m No Dummy to be well worth their time. This isn’t one of those documentaries that is informative but hard to sit through – this film is a perfect balance between entertaining and informative. It flows at a good pace, never feeling either stilted or rushed, and there are plenty of clips of vents performing, which of course are fun to watch, a highlight being Willie Tyler’s jaw-dropping “hambone” on the David Letterman Show.
I should mention that I’m No Dummy, is addition to be insightful and enjoyable, is also important: it’s pretty much a flagship film for the ventriloquist community. If you were already a regular at the Convention when this film came out, you probably saw a ton of familiar faces. On the other hand, if you haven’t been yet but are familiar with this movie, as I was, you will very likely meet a ton of the cast, as well as the filmmakers – and what’s more, they’ll be willing to sign your copy!
Really, my only gripe about the entire film is that Shari Lewis is not covered, even though Mallory Lewis and Lamb Chop are featured briefly. I wish there had been a segment dedicated to Lewis and her legacy, like the ones for Jimmy Nelson and a few of the other twentieth-century greats. There is also very little focus on earlier ventriloquists such as The Great Lester and John W. Cooper. However, if you have the two-disc special edition that I have, the second disc is packed with bonus material about the history of ventriloquism, highlights from the Vent Haven Museum, and other great finds, so both of those performers are covered.
Well, if my only criticism of a film is that it didn’t cover a couple of people that I thought it should have, that must mean that the end product is pretty darn good. And it is. I’m No Dummy is an excellent film, as well as an excellent documentary – in fact, it’s a very good example of a documentary with a lot of entertainment value. If you’re reading this review and haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and watch it. It might become a personal favorite as it has for me, and if you know someone who’s interesting in ventriloquism or is just starting out as a vent, I’m No Dummy might make a great gift.
The importance of this film on my own life as a ventriloquist cannot be overstated: thanks to this wonderful movie, I have visited the Vent Haven Museum, attended the Convention, and have focused more of my time on my ventriloquism, and now hope to be more than just a hobbyist. So thank you, Bryan W. Simon, and everyone else involved in making it!
After the end credits have finished, there is a clip of Jeff Dunham’s figure Walter saying something along the lines of, “Well, there’s ninety minutes of your life you’ll never get back! What an idiot.” I’ve now seen I’m No Dummy a total of four times, not counting bonus material, so it’s six hours, Walter! Take that!
My Rating: 9 out of 10
***½ out of ****
Thanks for the review Andrew. I have liked this movie from the very first time I saw it!
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