James Harle

DVD review: Jeff Dunham: Minding the Monsters

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Jeff Dunham | Giggle Beats

Jeff Dunham

Coming to DVD and Blu-Ray next month, Minding the Monsters brings together all of Jeff Dunham’s much-loved puppets for 80 minutes of monster-themed mayhem.

Set on an impressive stage-cum-haunted-house, the show features each of Jeff’s puppets sporting their own monster costume in true Halloween style. Dunham’s never been afraid to use his characters to broach taboo subjects, or create humour at his own expense – and his latest offering proves no exception.

Owning one of Dunham’s performances on DVD seems to me to be a mixed blessing. On the one hand, his varied act is likely to appeal (at least in part) to large audiences; on the other, there will almost definitely be sections that just aren’t for you. It’s not for nothing that everyone’s favourite Peanut, Walter and Achmed moments have been such a viral sensation in both YouTube and ringtone form: the full-length show can get a little wearing.

In fairness, Minding the Monsters does begin with a fairly lengthy riff from Dunham alone on the subject of scaring people. It’s a lot of fun – very anecdotal – and includes a lot of impressions and physical comedy which the puppets somehow seem to take credit for when they’re on his arm. It’s not perfect, but generally this is good quality, straight comedy from an obviously multi-talented man. Of course, it’s not long before the gloves come off, and the puppets go on; the moment the audience is palpably waiting for…

When interacting with his ‘dolls’ (as he calls them in self-deprecation) the origin of Dunham’s humour changes entirely. The anecdotal stuff is gone, and it’s all one – and two – liners, driven by the force of the characters – which, of course, varies. There’s no new additions to the team this time around, but in costume they’re all given a new dimension, which definitely freshens the act up nicely.

I don’t want to spoil it, but the choices are interesting. Expect a couple of classics and a couple of curveballs. Walter, Bubba J, Peanut and Achmed each feature in their own spoof horror movie trailer too, which adds a few more strings to the bow of an already varied comedy experience.

My main criticism of the show is that Dunham’s obvious ability as a ventriloquist can often be a crutch for lazy jokes. Frankly, the humour on offer ranges from hilarious to shocking. Consider, for example, a quip from my personal favourite character Jose Jalapeno: “your mother has cheese up her ass.” Sure, it gets a laugh, but it’s not a joke. It’s not even a crude joke; it has no structure. It’s moments like these that knock my confidence in Jeff, and make his show such a rollercoaster of amusement and awkwardness.

Dunham is a unique performer, shall we say, and a lot of care has gone into this show and the resulting film. It contains elements of anecdotal comedy which are definitely worth owning on hard copy, and the spoof trailers are good fun. But the overall experience can be undermined by the hit-and-miss nature of the ventriloquist’s wide range of humour.

That said, it’s this wide range that makes Jeff the crowd-pleaser he is; so it’s a bit of a judgement call, to be honest. Definitely recommended for families and group viewing, you’d be wise to buy a copy of Minding the Monsters – as long as you don’t mind mixing the monstrously funny jokes with the plain monstrous.