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Awesome: 1.67%
Worth A Look56.67%
Just Average: 6.67%
Pretty Crappy: 8.33%
Sucks: 26.67%

7 reviews, 18 user ratings

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American Dreamz
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by EricDSnider

"Not all the jokez work, but enough of them do."
4 stars

There's so much going on in "American Dreamz" that it's no wonder it sometimes forgets to be funny. You'd lose focus, too, if you had to execute parodies of reality TV, terrorism, the Bush administration, the war in Iraq, western consumerism, and "American Idol," all in one film. Fortunately, when the movie does remember to be funny, it's very, very funny.

Martin Tweed (Hugh Grant) is the host and sole judge on "American Dreamz," a hugely popular "Idol"-esque TV show about to begin a new season. But Tweed, bored, barbaric and British, wants to shake things up this year. He orders his staff to ensure that an Arab and a Jew are among the competitors, and when the president of the United States says he wants to appear as a guest judge for the finale, well, that should be good for a laugh, too.

The president is Joseph Staton (Dennis Quaid), a recently re-elected Bible-thumper who does whatever his chief of staff Sutter (Willem Dafoe, in a Cheney/Rove bald cap) tells him. But Staton, experiencing something of a mid-term mid-life crisis, has actually started reading the newspapers and thinking for himself. In fact, he's so ensconced in the world of current affairs and book-learning that he hasn't appeared in public in several weeks, leading to rumors he's had a nervous breakdown, and prompting Sutter's efforts to get him on "American Dreamz."

Meanwhile, the early front-runner in this year's "Dreamz" is Sally Kendoo (Mandy Moore), a perky-as-punch Ohio blonde who can turn on the charm in public as easily as she can turn on the connivery in private. In that respect, she is the soulmate of Martin Tweed, and the two find kinship in their duplicitous black-heartedness. This distresses Sally's boyfriend William (Chris Klein), a semi-wounded Army volunteer whom she's dating solely because it looks good on TV to have a boyfriend who fought in Iraq.

But what about the Arab and Jew Martin requested? The Jew gets shortchanged (as do a lot of the film's story elements), but the Arab is front and center. He's Omer (Sam Golzari), a bumbling but sweet former terrorist-in-training who was exiled by his Iraqi handlers to live with his cousins in America. Omer was never cut out for terrorism anyway; he prefers singing and dancing. Nonetheless, when his handlers tell him to use his "Dreamz" appearance -- and the presence of the U.S. president as a guest judge -- to further the cause, he has no choice but to obey.

Yes, writer/director Paul Weitz has his hands full here, and "American Dreamz" isn't as accomplished or smooth as his "American Pie," "About a Boy" and "In Good Company." (It's better than his Chris Rock misfire "Down to Earth," though.) While it's never boring, some scenes do feel like they ought to be funnier, or at least end more succinctly.

It's also a shame to see so many great characters and subplots underused. Omer's Americanized Iraqi cousins, led by the great Shohreh Aghdashloo; John Cho and Judy Greer as Martin's assistants; "SNL's" Seth Meyers as Sally's snaky agent; Jennifer Coolidge as her opportunistic mother; Marcia Gay Harden as the First Lady -- any of these roles could have been enhanced. There's a line between memorable supporting characters who serve their purpose and then disappear, and great supporting characters who make us feel like their scenes were deleted. This film crosses that line.

But it's the most outrightly satirical thing Weitz has done, and he demonstrates a real knack for it. The scenes mocking "American Idol" are hilariously accurate, from the types of contestants (the black diva, the prettified white boy, the wannabe rocker), to the drippy songs they choose, to the audience's fanatic devotion.

Hugh Grant is never better than when he's onstage as Martin Tweed, a perfectly unctuous TV airhead. He's not as charming in the offstage scenes as we like our Hugh Grants to be, but what can you do? He's working with Mandy Moore, for crying out loud.

Which brings me to an important point. The film is being marketed to Mandy Moore's demographic, but that audience will not enjoy it. They won't appreciate the multi-layered satire at work. The preview audience I saw it with often didn't even realize the jokes WERE jokes, let alone how funny they were. Besides, Moore's character is a scheming vixen, not the sweetheart her fans are used to.

Curiously, the one truly sincere character in the whole thing is President Staton, played with fiendish glee by Dennis Quaid. Staton may be an uncharitable send-up of our real-life commander in chief, but at least he's honest. You see in his arc (he's the only character who has one) a hint of what has made Weitz's previous films so winning: that layer of heart underneath the comedy that drives the whole thing home.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13928&reviewer=247
originally posted: 04/21/06 02:04:36
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival For more in the 2006 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/21/09 Jeff Wilder Had potential. But ultimately too defanged and hamstrung by a one-joke premise. 2 stars
3/29/09 R Lan Three words: This was terrible! 1 stars
3/10/07 Ryan_A Completely misses the mark, though not for lack of trying. Moore's good, as is Grant 2 stars
1/27/07 Brittle Miss Sunshine C'mon,Peter Sobczynski,don't insult this by classing with FREEDOMLAND orSUPER EX-GRLFRND! 4 stars
1/16/07 Cassandra Lund Film's only commonality with GW Bush is either'd be better than a Hillary admenstruation! 4 stars
10/30/06 ES They advertised this as a 'president does tv' movie? Ok ,way too long and not that smart 2 stars
7/10/06 Cheryl Stitt Yep, early reference to ovine proctophagy gives rest of movie harder act than it can follow 2 stars
6/21/06 Carmen Mistletoe Dr Phil ad on efilmcritic -- it's really going to pot! Dafoe in Dick Cheney makeup? Huunh? 5 stars
5/25/06 The Velcro Warlock After early talk 'tween Sally & her brother, disappointing lack of "scatliogical" humor! 3 stars
4/30/06 john bale Some truth & laughs, lightweight satire on Reality TV and Geo. Bush 4 stars
4/28/06 Alex Paquin "Network" for the younger crowd, better than I expected 3 stars
4/27/06 Jen Wilson Horrible idea... Horrible Execution 2 stars
4/25/06 Mase Misses more than hits, the script sparkles at times but just overloads. 3 stars
4/24/06 Fred Liitle humor, a lot of Bush-hating mean spiritedness 1 stars
4/22/06 dee Just a pitiful excuse for satire! Not smart, not witty, not good! 1 stars
4/22/06 jt This movie really really stunk! The review is dead on target - the Simpson's had far more 1 stars
4/06/06 Riki What? Seriously?! 3 stars
4/04/06 Jeff Movie was great. Makes you think! 4 stars
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  21-Apr-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 17-Oct-2006



[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Paul Weitz

Written by
  Paul Weitz

  Dennis Quaid
  Hugh Grant
  Mandy Moore
  Willem Dafoe
  Marcia Gay Harden
  Chris Klein

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