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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 Erik Childress

"Hits Its Marks More Often Than Dick Cheney."
4 stars

The most popular joke about the decline of American politics is that more people vote for the winners of American Idol than they do for the Presidential election. Take into account that you donít have to register, leave your house or worry about being chosen for jury duty by picking up a phone for Idol and your choices generally are well-liked, talented and less inclined to screw over you or your country. Paul Weitz clearly has heard this joke and is now spinning it inside and out in a wonderful satire that skewers each part of the equation to craft a far greater punchline.

On the eve of winning his second term in office, President Staton (Dennis Quaid) is suffering from an intense malaise which leads him to do really wacky things like Ė read a newspaper! His Chief of Staff (Willem Dafoe, in full Dick Cheney makeup) canít understand the urgency for him to know things heís not just told and worries that the public may give in to the rumors of a breakdown. Of course, the general public is much too wrapped up with the impending new season of American Dreamz, whose Simon Cowell-ish host, Martin Tweed (Hugh Grant) reaps its successes while secretly hoping this will be his final season.

One of the leading candidates to win the glorified karaoke competition is Ohioís Sally Kendoo (Mandy Moore), who was just that Ė a karaoke champ who now doubts her own talent. Boyfriend William Williams (Chris Klein, doing the kind of affable lug role he should stick with) offers her loads of loving support and confidence only to be dumped as a result. In another part of the world, terrorist-in-training Omer (Sam Golzari) canít cut it in front of the cameras for martyr recruiting commercials but secretly desires a career in Broadway. He is sent away to California to live with his distant, but flourishing family to wait for his sleeper call contact (a call no one figured would ever get placed.) But when American Dreamz wants an Arab (and a Jew) to compete and heís mistaken for his Superfreak-loviní cousin, an opportunity against the infidels presents itself when the President is slated to be a guest judge on the finale.

This is all first act material, mind you, and itís a lot for audiences to swallow as just the setup. Clearly, American Dreamz has the collective ambitions of the free world and, at times, it starts to get the better of itself when trying to juggle so many storylines and barely giving the satire room to breathe. But if its opening scenes are like an asthma attack within an iron lung, Weitz stabilizes the material and begins massaging the satire with the brand of human interest that made works like American Pie, About a Boy and In Good Company so distinctive.

The lampooning of American Idol is the scriptís greatest weakness. By reducing it down to a single judge and itís most obvious target in Simon Cowell, its cinematic counterpart loses the opportunity for easy shots at Randy/Paula equivalents as well as the chance to further explore the public spoonfeeding of cookie-cutter soundbites then the more honest tough-love opines of someone like Cowell (where a positive mark actually means something.) But where that gets shoved aside, people may be surprised at how sympathetic Weitz is to his Dubya figure, which Quaid relishes every confused moment. Heís viewed as a numbskull who is met with surprise when he actually wants to read a newspaper. Yet also as just a puppet, towing the line of more intelligent and politically-hungry staff members when he really wants to be remembered in his second term for more than just having a second term. (Iíll leave it to you to discuss which amalgam is more accurate Ė Weitzís or President Logan on TVís 24.)

Politics and reality television are both simplistic targets and I believe Weitz is well aware. In a world where caricatures are replacing human beings with each camera pan, Weitz wades through the blind ambitions of each storyís lead character and comes upon the human frailties that escort them towards a pursuit of something more than just fifteen minutes in the spotlight. Martin, Sally, Omer and the President all have insecurities about the imprint they are leaving with their lives and that anxiety leads them to questionable; sometimes goofy, but always believable behavior which helps broaden the satire beyond just broad strokes. American Dreamz works because it is about people living in a land where satire need not apply to escalate their eccentricities. The melting pot in which we reside has blurred the borders between fame and politics, cultures and wealth, ambitions and agendas. Itís sad really, but also quite funny if you know who and what to laugh at and when.

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originally posted: 04/21/06 14:10:36
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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

5/22/09 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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