Jeff Dunham: Minding the Monsters
- Street Date:
- October 9th, 2012
- Reviewed by:
- Daniel Hirshleifer
- Review Date: 1
- October 22nd, 2012
- Movie Release Year:
- 0 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Release Country
- United States
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Jeff Dunham is the most popular, highest paid comedian in the entire United States. I guess this goes to show that the cream doesn't always rise to the top, because Dunham's act isn't just offensively racist and sexist, it's also painfully unfunny. Great stand-up comedy makes the audience think. Dunham simply plays to his audience's worst impulses. I don't know if Dunham believes the racist things he makes his puppets say, or if he's simply doing it to fleece his audience of their cash. And, between the two, I genuinely don't know which is worse.
For 'Minding The Monsters', Dunham dresses up his puppets as monsters and does his show on a haunted house stage. The show is divided into sets, with each character getting its own portion, and interstitial mock-trailers introducing each one. Things start with Dunham himself doing a bit of straight stand up. Without the puppets, he seems a little lost. He tells meandering stories that frequently have weak or non-existent punch lines. He also spends a lot of time laughing at his own jokes, which doesn't feel very professional. Still, this section is free of the kind of rampant racism that makes up the rest of the show.
Dunham next brings out Walter, his perpetually cranky old man character. Walter is dressed up as "Crankenstein," with a Frankenstein-style dome on his head. A few jokes are made at Dunham's expense, and then it starts. Mexican jokes, Jew jokes, jokes about immigrants, you name it. Dunham has this "Oh, jeez" look on his face, as if he simply cannot believe what Walter is saying. And that's the way the ventriloquist act generally works, but given the material in question, it feels disingenuous.
Then comes Bubba J, the redneck trailer park perpetual drunk. He's dressed as Dracula, with an exaggerated tooth. Most of this act involves jokes on how Bubba is constantly dead drunk or on drugs. This set is like a raunchier version of Jeff Foxworthy's "You might be a redneck if…", with Dunham prompting Bubba to reveal ever more embarrassing behavior and activities. Again, at no point was any of this actually funny, and you might begin to notice exactly how often Dunham's lips actually do move, because it's far more frequent than what you'd expect for the world's most famous ventriloquist.
Next up is Peanut and Jose, on a Batman and Robin riff. Peanut is a Muppet-looking creation, purple with huge red lips, white fur, and a tuft of green hair. Jose is a jalapeno pepper on a stick, and I'm sure where you can guess where that ends up going. Actually, this section mainly mines sexual jokes (Peanut's Batman parody is called "Batnut") and gags at Dunham's expense. He even brings out a mini-Dunham doll dressed up as the Riddler, but instead called "The Loser."
Finally, and most disconcertingly, we get Achmed the Dead Terrorist, dressed as a blonde American woman (the scariest thing Achmed could think of). I had heard of Achmed, an elaborately designed skeleton doll that is meant to be the remains of an incompetent suicide bomber, but had never actually seen him in action before. This is, without a doubt, completely and utterly racist on every level. If Dunham had put together a blackface doll called "Jim Crow", it would hardly be more offensive than this.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not a prude. I love all kinds of offensive material. I defend all sorts of controversial things in the name of free speech. But if you're going to be offensive, do it for a reason. Do it to make a point. Don't do it just to capitalize on the worst impulses of your audience. When the show does cut away to the people in the theater, they are practically falling off their chairs with laughter. I'm not saying they're not allowed to laugh, or that Dunham isn't allowed to make money off of their beliefs, but it feels even more cheap and gaudy than the costumes that Dunham has his puppets wear.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
'Jeff Dunham: Minding The Monsters' is presented in an AVC encoded 1.78:1 1080i transfer. In general, this is a strong transfer, especially in close-ups. No matter what you think of Dunham's act, his skills as a craftsman are evident in his puppets. You can see the grooves that make the lines in their faces, Bubba J's rosy red cheeks, Peanut's felt head, and the incredible amount of detail in Achmed. The stage lighting does make things look a little flat, but the color reproduction is good and you can still pick out plenty of interesting touches in the elaborate set. The interstitial trailers and introduction were professionally shot (by a college friend of mine, actually) and a few were purposefully degraded in post, but otherwise look good. There's a bit of noise, especially in the audience shots were the lighting is worse, but nothing bad enough to detract from the overall transfer.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
'Minding The Monsters' sports a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround mix and a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround mix. As expected for a show like this, activity is focused in the front channels, with the audience relegated to the rears. Dialogue is crystal clear, which is what really matters here. The soundstage seems a bit confined, although not stiflingly so. You won't think you're at the live show, but it's a reasonable facsimile. The opening and trailers are more aggressive, especially the LFE track, which otherwise goes unused. A perfectly solid mix that won't stress your sound system.
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
- Audio Commentary - Jeff Dunham, trailer director Matt McNeal, and friend/ animation director Kelly Asbury watch the show and discuss technical aspects while ribbing each other. McNeal and Asbury are good foils for Dunham to play off of, and the three keep each other on their toes. More enjoyable than the main feature, as many of the special features are.
- Creating Crankenstein (HD, 9 min) – Dunham shows some of the design influences for the character (including an incredible bust of the original cinematic Frankenstein), and then his process for creating the skullcap that Walter wears. Doing a combination of sculpting, scanning, and 3D printing, Dunham creates the finished product.
- Monstrous Mistakes (HD, 6 min) – The blooper reel for the live show. Nothing great, except for a mic malfunction that lets Dunham show off his ventroliquist skills a little differently.
- Tour of Terror (HD, 6 min) – Dunham shows the camera crew around the elaborate and meticulously designed set. Dunham clearly loves all the work that went into it, showing off things as inconsequential as fake spider webs all the way up to revolving bookcases.
- Minding The Miniatures (HD, 13 min) – Maybe the most interesting of all the special features, this one shows how the miniatures were made for the graveyard sequence in the opening. It reveals just how much work goes into a fleeting moment that most of the audience won't even remember by the end of the disc. Lots of great technical details in this one.
- Frightening Photos (HD, 2 min) – Dunham and his puppets pose for the Blu-ray cover photo. Also, Dunham and the crew take a break for ice cream.
- Monster Movie Magic (HD, 26 min) – Anything that isn't covered in the previous special features get looked at in this half-hour featurette. A lot more work on the miniatures, behind the scenes on the trailer shoots, and more.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
There are no high-def exclusives.
Jeff Dunham is one of the most popular entertainers in the United States, but I can't fathom why. Not only is he needlessly racist and sexist, but he's wholly unfunny. Still, it's clear that people like him, and for those that do, 'Minding The Monsters' offers plenty of bang for your buck. The disc sports a good transfer and decent audio, and it has a strong set of special features that are better than the main show itself. If you don't like Jeff Dunham, there's nothing here that will change your mind. If you do like him, then this disc seems like a decent bet. For fans only.
- BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc
- Region A
- 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
- English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround
- English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround
- English SDH
- Monstrous Mistakes Outtakes
- Tour of Terror
- Monster Movie Magic
- Frightening Photos
- Audio Commentary
- Bleeped and Uncensored Options
- Creating Crankenstein
- Minding The Miniatures
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