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‘Dummy’ just plain strange

Features Oscar winner Adrien Brody

What an odd little movie. Adrien Brody (the Oscar-winning actor from “The Pianist”) stars as Steven, a grown man who still lives with his overbearing family and decides the time is right to learn ventriloquism and express himself through a creepy dummy.

He has a temperamental sister, Heidi (Illeana Douglas,) who also lives at home and hates her life. She wanted to be a singer, but instead she plans other people’s weddings. Meanwhile, her ex-boyfriend (Jared Harris) is a psychotic stalker who wants her to come see him in a community theater production of “The Glass Menagerie.”

Mom (Jessica Walter) is a passive-aggressive ghoul who makes sandwiches whether people are hungry or not and forces Heidi to beg to borrow her car each day. Dad (Ron Leibman) watches porn all day while assembling plastic models of battleships.

Milla Jovovich (“The Fifth Element,” “Resident Evil”) co-stars as Steven’s high-school friend Fangora, a rock ’n’ roll wannabe who is trying to learn Klezmer music so she can perform at Jewish weddings.

Brody embodies the super-nerd as Steven struggles with his dummy. There are a lot of scenes of the two mumbling to each other, a lot more scenes of the family shrieking at each other, and a handful of really funny lines.

“You look like a child molester,” Heidi tells Steven as he sits on his bed in his underwear, the dummy perched on his lap.

The trouble is that the few funny moments are separated by long, dull, uneven patches of non-story. The parents are more annoying than humorous, and so much of the story rings false that it’s hard to continue caring about the characters.

The principle cause of this is Lorena (Vera Farmiga, “15 minutes”) a sweet, pretty employment counselor who becomes Steven’s love interest.

She has a young daughter and a tragic love story in her past and seems to be too smart and sensitive to allow herself to get involved with a pathetic, freaky guy like Steven.

Example: To thank Lorena for helping him get a ventriloquism gig, Steven spray-paints “I owe you one!” on her door and leaves a bundle of flowers. Lorena files a restraining order against him.

Later, he sends her a video explaining that he’s not a psycho and only vandalized her home because Fangora told him to and he doesn’t know how to behave around woman.

Instead of swooning for him, a real person — even a very nice, understanding one — would say: Apology accepted, but if you are that incapable of recognizing and avoiding dangerous anti-social behavior I must insist you stay away from me and my child.

They have a falling out, of course, before the final resolution. Fangora tells Steven classical music makes women “horny,” and Lorena walks out when he puts on a CD of John Philip Sousa marches.

There you go. That’s pretty funny.

A guy who takes his dummy on a date is a funny situation, but then you have to write funny lines and behavior. This is where Pritikin falls short.