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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
[] Buy posters from this movie
by William Goss

"Mock The Vote"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2006 SXSW FILM FESTIVAL: With such an elaborate plot, substantial cast, and obvious objects of ridicule, it almost seems too easy to categorize a comedy like 'American Dreamz' as a satire. However, the humor here is more silly than sharp, and although it doesnít really work under that label, it remains an amusing farce nonetheless as it takes several swipes at politics and pop culture.

Scheming Sally Kendoo (Mandy Moore) intends to become a singing superstar by winning the new season of ďAmerican Dreamz,Ē a television phenomenon hosted by harsh judge Martin Tweed (Hugh Grant) that has everyone tuning in and phoning in to vote for their favorite contestants. Opposing Sally is Omer (Sam Golzari), an exiled terrorist whose love for show tunes inadvertently places him in competition, where he is tapped by his superiors to blow himself up when recently reelected President Staton (Dennis Quaid) appears on the finale in an effort to boost his public image after weeks of reading the newspaper for himself have sparked rumors of a possible breakdown.

Whew. Thatís the closest thing to a nutshell I could muster, and I didnít even get a chance to mention:

-Sallyís equally driven mother (Jennifer Coolidge), her boyfriend/recent war veteran (Chris Klein), and her slimy agent (Seth Meyers)
-Martinís brown-nosing assistants (John Cho and Judy Greer)
-Statonís concerned First Lady (Marcia Gay Harden) and calculating chief of staff (Willem Dafoe),

all of whom do terrific jobs of rounding out the cast and bringing vivid roles to life if only to linger along the periphery, even though each character does manage to get their fair share of screen time, as writer/director Paul Weitz (American Pie, About A Boy, In Good Company) juggles the people and plot capably, if not smoothly.

Few filmmakers, including Weitz and Alexander Payne, are capable at creating and executing sincere human comedy as he has demonstrated with his previous pictures, so it may not be fair to begrudge Weitz for taking a break with something a bit broader. Despite the apparent lack of tact displayed with the selection of such blatant targets, he still attempts to develop the human dimensions as usual and the result is a curious creation, a screwball farce that lands more of its blows than other comedies can come close to claiming. The film doesnít rely on the viewer to care for the characters, but Weitz and company put forth the energy needed to make their caricatures less shallow than they may be appear to be, at least enough to carry home exaggerated comedy that would otherwise collapse.

Moore continues to prove herself as a surprisingly capable actress by depicting Sally as a ruthless egomaniacal bitch who may have just found her counterpart in the similarly self-deprecating Martin, a role in which Grant seems more comfortable than in any five rom-coms that litter his filmography. Quaid manages to makes a sympathetic lump of his incompetent Pres (undoubtedly modeled on Dubya), as he comes to realize the man pulling the strings is Dafoeís chief of staff, a terrific amalgam of Dick Cheney and Karl Rove who even goes as far as to manipulate the Commander-in-Chief via earpiece as he makes his publicity blitz. Of equivalent admiration are performances by relative newcomers Golzari and Tony Yalda, who embrace their difficult roles of the all-singing, all-dancing terrorist and his flamboyant cousin/coach.

Prior to opening 'American Dreamz,' Universalís previous release was James Gunnís campy horror flick 'Slither,' which very much parallels 'Dreamz' in terms of ambition and attitude. Neither film takes itself too seriously, and while the humor may be obvious, they work for the most part due to an effort and earnestness that few other films exhibit. Sure, one could have been scarier and the other funnier, but what matters is that they try to be not something deeper, but something different that nearly satisfies on its own terms. When it comes down to it, I would rather spend my time and money watching an eager entertainment that almost always hits its targets than a copycat comedy that never even bothers to aim.

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originally posted: 05/08/06 08:39:53
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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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