Dummy written and directed by Greg Pritikin, produced by Bob Fagan and Richard Temtchine, with Adrien Brody, Milla Jovovich, Illeana Douglas and Jessica Walter. 90 minutes. A Quadrant production. An Artisan release through Odeon Films. Opens Friday (September 26). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 85. Rating: NN
Dummy premiered at the american Film Market in February 2002. It floated through an assortment of
Second-tier American film festivals – Santa Barbara, SXSW, Boston, Seattle – until it got a berth at Toronto, and is finally opening now, a year and a half after it was finished.
It hasn’t taken this long to open because it was good, but because between the time it was made and the time it opened, star Adrien Brody won the Academy Award for The Pianist, a great performance in a wrenchingly powerful film.
In Dummy, Brody plays a sad sack who lives at home and, after losing his job, decides to pursue his lifelong dream of being a ventriloquist. Meanwhile, his sister (Illeana Douglas) is having problems with their parents and her business as a wedding planner, and his best friend since high school (Milla Jovovich) is still trying to get her punk band together.
What rescues this picture from utter worthlessness are the performances by Douglas, a perennially underused actor (see her in Ghost World as the art teacher, or as the figure-skating sister in To Die For), and by Milla Jovovich of all people.
Jovovich, model/actress and ex-wife of Luc Besson, is very funny here as Fangora, who decides her band should play punk klezmer in order to get a wedding gig.
As for Brody, his best characters are forceful in some way – the union organizer in Bread And Roses, punk rocker Richie in Summer Of Sam, the war photographer in Harrison’s Flowers – and he’s perhaps least interesting playing passive. He’s not a nebbish specialist like, say, Charles Grodin.
Director Greg Pritikin doesn’t have much of an eye, and does nothing interesting visually in this film. He’s inclined to plunk the camera down and let scenes play, then do a little coverage for closeups.
Dummy is being released because of Brody, but nobody’s doing the actor any favours by putting it out there.