3.5 Waffles!

Don't write off Dumbstruck as a movie about a bunch of dummies or sideshow freaks. You will be amazed at the heart and soul on display, and get hooked by the exhilarating and devastating stories.

In this documentary, director Mark Goffman brings us to the Vent Haven Convention - the world's largest meet up of ventriloquists. Yes, it's an eclectic group of people, but Goffman focuses in on 5 of the most interesting and allows us to follow their lives from the dream come true story of Terry Fator, who won America's Got Talent and secured a $100 million contract to perform in Vegas, to the struggles of Wilma, who soldiers on with her show even though she's on the brink of losing everything and doesn't seem to be heading towards anything.

Goffman elicits a great emotional investment from the audience in four people as we learn about the five people he is following. These five performers are a group of outsiders who can easily be mocked, but you cannot avoid becoming wrapped up in their pursuit of happiness and success, especially when it seems out of reach.

We might be familiar with Fator's massive success after America's Got Talent, but his journey and years of forging forward in the face of extreme challenge and the general niceness and likability of the guy wins you over. He has a genuine expression of shock and satisfaction at what is happening to his career. Next time I am in Vegas, I want to see the show because of it.

On the flip side, poor poor Wilma will have you crying as we see the painful life she has lead and continues to lead. Every story about her family will make you want to call your Mom and Dad and thank them for being so much better than hers. Yet, in the face of it all, the one thing that keeps her going is her love of ventriloquism, which Goffman captures even though it seems so unlikely given her performance venues and audiences.

The only part of Dumbstruck that doesn't connect is Goffman's following of the kid, Dylan, although you will love watching his mother walk around with a look on her face that screams, "Oh my God! I will never have grandchildren!" He's a teen Fator-wannabe, but doesn't have the same presence and intrigue about him the others do. Yet, some will find a kinship with him as he struggles to have a relationship with a father who doesn't get the ventriloquist thing and keeps wishing he had a manlier teen boy.

Goffman relies on traditional, compelling storytelling to help us relate to a group of people who are about as far from traditional as you can imagine, but they are compelling, which is why you want to check out Dumbstruck.

Dumbstruck is Dumbstruck is rated PG for brief suggestive humor.