Mel Gibson in The Beaver isn’t the only dysfunctional person with his hand up a puppet these days. The new documentary Dumbstruck has five of them—and they’re all rather likable despite the way they tend to mess up their human relations in favor of bonding with the playthings that have become their lifeline and livelihood.
The ventriloquists are extremely varied—from entry level to hugely successful—but they all seem to follow a certain pattern: they have all had loneliness issues. They find comfort in their puppets, even if they have constant one-upmanship debates with them. And they usually have to deal with disapproval from relatives who’d way prefer that they settle down with actual humans.