Judge Eric Profancik is writing and singing "Melancholy Baby" at the same time!
"Come on, get some more, puppet boy. Let's go."
I'm about to commit the cardinal rule of writing: I'm going to talk about myself. Any casual reader of my stuff on The Verdict will know that I almost always relate a personal story to the review. In this case, the story is longer than the review; but it is highly relevant and sets the stage for the small review. (The review is small as this is a very early screener that will change before final release.)
I don't watch America's Got Talent. The closest I got to this show is when I got caught up in the Susan Boyle frenzy, but that's another story. While I don't watch it, one of my good friends, whom we'll call TB, does watch it; and I think he's quite the fan. So in 2007, he's trying to sway me to watch the show because there are some great acts, including this Terry Fator guy. He eventually wins the competition based on his ventriloquism act. Even after the season was over TB would try to convince me that I missed something special, so he would send me YouTube links to Fator's performances. Granted, I did watch them (well, a few seconds or so of them) but wasn't especially impressed. I'm stubborn that way. The hook for Fator's act wasn't just throwing his voice, he would also sing. And then not just sing but do that singer's voice via ventriloquism to his puppet. Perhaps the best example is Fator doing "At Last" by Etta James. I'll admit it was pretty darn good for voice emulation via puppet, but I thought he was just a little bit off.
Here we are in 2009, and TB and I continue to "fight" about America's Got Talent. He still watches it; I still consider it a colossal waste of time. That, I believe, to be even more true after watching five minutes of the show this season and comparing it to the original, British version. But in one of our weekly Verdict screener lists, I stumble across a DVD for Terry Fator: Live in Las Vegas. Of course I didn't immediately know who he was, but being such a fan of the city of Las Vegas I clicked on the link to behold the ventriloquist. I asked for the DVD, and here I am. Being the stinker, I teased TB with the fact that I had the Fator disc; but I also told him I didn't request it but that I received it via pot luck. After all the back and forth over Fator, my curiosity was so piqued that I had to see if his act was any good—but I couldn't let TB know he had finally swayed me.
One last piece to the puzzle is why we "fight" about Fator. If you didn't know, Fator in winning the television show also "won" a five year contract to perform at The Mirage in Vegas (hence the title of the DVD). The Mirage not only built him a theater, but his five year contract is worth $100 million. Let me repeat that: a ventriloquist is earning $20 million a year! In my book, no ventriloquist is worth that. You had better be pretty darn good to earn that scratch. So with all that resentment in hand (you have to admit you made a wrong career choice when a ventriloquist makes that much money and you see what you make for 40 hours a week), I put in the disc to see what Terry Fator has to offer.
With a chip on my shoulder I was ready to skewer and lambaste Fator from one end of this review to the other. I was eager to reveal to the world what a sham he is, how he truly doesn't deserve all that money. But, gosh darn it, that blasted ventriloquist actually isn't all that bad. He puts on a pretty enjoyable show that actually impressed me at times and made me laugh several times over. I have to admit that Fator is pretty good, but not $100 million good! I enjoyed his singing, his jokes, and his show overall. As a semi-regular visitor to Vegas, I decided I would peruse The Mirage website for future reference. After all, the DVD packaging does say "he performs 48 weeks a year, five sold-out nights a week" so if I were to perhaps consider seeing him, I would have to prepare in advance. So as I sat on my couch on the evening of July 11, I pulled up the site and discovered that one hour before his next show I could buy get a ticket. OK, a little bit of packaging exaggeration is allowed, but get this for sticker shock: tickets range from $86.90 to $141.90. Yikes! I'd pay that for Cirque de Soleil but not a ventriloquist.
So let's boil this all down to the essentials:
• Didn't watch the show and didn't see myself as a fan of Terry Fator.
• Watched the DVD and got 71 minutes of entertainment out of it.
• Considered a potential future visit but ticket prices are too high.
• OK, so I enjoyed Fator's show.
This is a screener, and it's one that will need an update before release. On the technical side, I found the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen video very pleasant. It contained realistic colors with excellent accuracy, great details, but contrast was a bit weak giving us blacks a bit on the soft side. Audio is a simple Dolby Digital 2.0 mix than is clear, clean, and free of distortion. Seeing how music is a big part of his act, an upgrade to a 5.1 mix would be very much appreciated. And that's the disc. There are no subtitles, no bonus features (though a commentary by Fator is noted on the package), and not even a menu. If you hit the menu button, it takes you to a black screen and just sits there.
One last point: One of my favorite parts of his show was his Michael Jackson bit. Not only was he good, but he goofed which sent Fator into a fit of laughter. Seeing as MJ is no longer with us, will Fator continue doing that part of his show? I hope he does as it's a funny tribute.
Though I don't believe Fator is worth $100 million, Terry Fator: Live in
Las Vegas, once it gets a finished product, will be an enjoyable substitute
for an expensive trip West. At least give it a rental and let his act sway your
opinion. TB, you were right—half right.
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