When I first heard the concept behind the movie “American Dreamz” I didn’t think that I would like the movie. I find a lot of satire efforts to be either over the top or just plain boring. This one, on the other hand, was actually a bit of both.
The story centers on a popular television show that proports to make stars out of singers by fulfilling their American dream. Think “American Idol” with an ever so slight twist. The show is hosted by a self-loathing egomaniac named Martin Tweed (played by Hugh Grant). The show is in the process of locating singing stars with three being hand chosen by Tweed: Sally Kendoo, a Midwest town darling with a deeply hidden black heart; a Jewish cantor with a longing for stardom, and a newly immigrated Arab Muslim waiting to be activated by his sleeper cell.
At the other end of the country the President of the United States (played by Dennis Quaid) is, for the first time in his life, beginning to ask questions and develop concerns about world issues. This starts him down a road that his Chief of Staff (played by Willem Dafoe) doesn’t want him to take. So he pushes him into using an ear microphone whereby he can feed the President what he wants him to say. He also decides to put the President in the spot light by getting him a guest judge position on the public’s favorite television show “American Dreamz.”
All of this sets up the ultimate plot of the story, which I’m not going to give away. It would spoil your enjoyment of the film, which as much as I hate to admit, has some truly comical moments, that makes the movie worth watching at least one time.
I also hate to admit that I almost died laughing at Dennis Quaid’s wonderful comic performance as the bumbling, stumbling, obviously unenlightened President. While, of course, everyone knows that this role was meant to further denigrate a man who has been all but hung out to dry already, it really doesn’t accomplish that goal. Instead Quaid manages to infuse this supposed idiotic politician with some redeeming qualities. My deepest apologies to my friends on the left. I also found Hugh Grant’s turn as the host/judge of the singing television show “American Dreamz” an absolute hoot! He was the perfect amalgamation of a Ryan Seacrest type host and a Simon Cowl-ish judge; making him all too insufferable and loads of fun to watch.
Mandy Moore was adorably cute, precocious, and funny as Sally, the would-be America’s sweetheart. She certainly looked the part, a la Carrie Underwood. However, being from Oklahoma myself (as was Miss Underwood) I have to say that I resent Hollywood’s continued need to give the impression that all people from rural America are “white trash.” Come on, the character was funny enough without that particular label being added into the mix. Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the last two Miss America’s came from the state of Oklahoma. Chris Klein, who played William Williams, Mandy’s supposed heroic boyfriend was also interesting to watch despite his country-bumpkinish turn.
I really didn’t care for the continued labeling of all Muslims as terrorists. Yes, I know that some of them are but then so are some Americans. I lived through the Oklahoma City bombing so I’m well aware of this fact. And I also remember that this film is done very tongue-in-cheek and that the general audience is supposed to understand that the role of the Muslim show tune singing would-be bomber is supposed to poke fun at everyone who thinks that all Muslims are terrorists. I’m just not certain that the film did enough of a job at getting that point across successfully. Sam Golzari, on the other hand, as Omer was absolutely delightful in this part. I believe he did his best to illustrate the confusion, uncertainty, and innocence of an outsider trying to understand America and its people.
Paul Weitz wrote, directed, and produced this movie. It is true that he has a way with unusual psychological comedy as shown in some of his previous work “In Good Company,” “About a Boy,” and “American Pie.” However, I find this film, which is meant to be a condemnation of America’s shrinking attention span, just another insulting label that he chooses to use in order to push his own internal agenda.
Rodney Liber and Andrew Miano also produced the film with Chris Weitz and Kerry Kohansky serving as executive producers. This is a Universal Picture in conjunction with Depth of Field Productions. It is one hour and 43 minutes in length and carries a PG-13 rating.
Despite some of its faults, the movie is entertaining so I give it three out of five stars; making worth a one-tiime watch if not a permanent spot in your movie collection.