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Overall Rating

Awesome: 1.67%
Worth A Look56.67%
Average: 6.67%
Pretty Bad: 8.33%
Total Crap: 26.67%

7 reviews, 18 user ratings

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American Dreamz
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by brianorndorf

"This is what you get when you ask Chris Klein to be funny"
1 stars

As a satire of American pop culture, "American Dreamz" fails. As a farcical look at President Bush and his panicked political team, "American Dreamz" fails. And as a comedy with slapstick and, gulp, Chris Klein, "American Dreamz" really fails. It truly is a terrible film, crammed with such dim-witted and overexposed satirical topics that none of it can gasp for breath.

“American Dreamz” is a wildly popular televised singing contest, and host Martin Tweed (Hugh Grant) is at his wit’s end with it all. He wants more sparkle in the cast, and finds Ohio fame junkie Sally Kendoo (Mandy Moore) has all the inspiration he needs to keep going. The show also happens upon Omer (Sam Golzari), an Iraqi visiting his relatives’ California mansion, who has strict orders to suicide bomb the show when he makes the finals. Back in Washington, buffoonish President Stanton (Dennis Quaid) has just been reelected by a narrow margin and wants to learn more about the big world outside the White House, panicking his controlling Chief of Staff (Willem Dafoe).

“American Dreamz” furthers the anemic work “Thank You for Smoking” started this spring by poking fun at the screamingly obvious. “Dreamz” is designed as a wacky romp on American popular culture and Bush politics (think “Dr. Strangelove” for the MySpace crowd), but there’s not an instant of the film that touches this intended profundity. This is mockery without bite, brains, or a decent sense of adventure.

Writer/director Paul Weitz (“American Pie,” “In Good Company”) has never been one to write genuinely subversive material, but good heavens the t-ball targets in “Dreamz” would make Mad Magazine turn away in disgust. Self-absorbed, fame-obsessed, dim-witted “American Idol” contestants? Lampooning “American Idol” in general? A dense southern President? With a manipulative Chief of Staff (acting like Rove, dressed like Cheney) pulling his strings? These are the salivating subjects Weitz has come to make fun of. I hate to break it to him, but these topics have been satirized to death in every medium imaginable, and in the case of “Idol,” it’s already a heavily acknowledged, strongly discomforting cultural speed bump. The filmmaker is merely beating a dead horse trying to arrange these subjects into some type of carnival of satiric hilarity.

Since the screenplay wiring of “Dreamz” is faulty from the start, the picture takes on a runaway train style of filmmaking, speeding down a track of mediocrity as it doles out the demerits to its characters. On the edges of the film, you can see Weitz’s good intentions if you squint. President Stanton is a boob, but he desires to learn more about the political wasteland through newspapers, only to be shut down by his wife’s Prozac and his worried staff. The “Dreamz” contest purposefully features Arab and Jewish contestants, yet nothing comes from that idea. There’s also Omer’s suicide bomber subplot that could’ve gone anywhere, but Weitz takes it to the obvious conclusion, with a little shock value thrown in for good measure. The Simon Cowell stand-in, Martin Tweed, has the initial fragrance of a deeply needed roasting of the TV icon; however, Weitz spells out Tweed’s inner monologue too often, giving him dialog admitting his self-loathing to others instead of letting Grant play it internally.

Perhaps “Dreamz” would be more successful as a send-up had Weitz cast actors capable of some impression of nuance. When I think comedy, Chris Klein (hamming it up as Sally’s Iraq War vet boyfriend), Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid, Judy Greer, and Shohreh Aghdashloo (as Omer’s pampered aunt) are the last names on my list. These actors “Benny Hill” the script up, using an assortment of bug-eyes and winks to the camera to let the audience know they’re in on the joke. Only Willem Dafoe seems to comprehend how to pitch this material smoothly. Criminally, actors with crack comic timing, such as Jeffrey Ross and Seth Meyers, are given mere cameos.

“Dreamz” soon barnstorms into kindergarten song parodies (the rock star contestant performs a song aptly titled “I Rock”), slapstick, and looks to climax with a smidge of absurdity.

“American Dreamz” struggles so mightily to be clever it forgets to be competent, and overall directorial clumsiness quickly severs Weitz’s attempt at a decimating satirical blow to the shallow end of the American culture pool.

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originally posted: 04/21/06 15:48:38
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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

5/22/09 Jeff Wilder Had potential. But ultimately too defanged and hamstrung by a one-joke premise. 2 stars
3/30/09 R Lan Three words: This was terrible! 1 stars
3/11/07 Ryan_A Completely misses the mark, though not for lack of trying. Moore's good, as is Grant 2 stars
1/28/07 Brittle Miss Sunshine C'mon,Peter Sobczynski,don't insult this by classing with FREEDOMLAND orSUPER EX-GRLFRND! 4 stars
1/17/07 Cassandra Lund Film's only commonality with GW Bush is either'd be better than a Hillary admenstruation! 4 stars
10/31/06 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
5/26/06 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
4/28/06 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
4/25/06 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
4/07/06 Riki What? Seriously?! 3 stars
4/05/06 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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