Everyone's a Target in the Wildly Uneven "American Dreamz"
- Thursday, April 20, 2006
Release Date: April 21, 2006
Rating: PG-13 (language and some sexual content)
Run Time: 107 min.
Director: Paul Weitz
Actors: Hugh Grant, Dennis Quaid, Mandy Moore, Willem Dafoe, Marcia Gay Harden, Chris Klein, Jennifer Coolidge, Judy Greer, Sam Golzari
It’s not too difficult to find plenty of parody material in American pop culture, just ask the writers of “Saturday Night Live.” And with “American Dreamz,” Paul Weitz ( “In Good Company,” “About a Boy”) takes full advantage and pokes fun at so many current affairs that it’s hard to keep up with all the criss-crossing storylines.
The story, or should I say series of sketches that never fully materialize into a full-blown story, kicks off as we meet Martin Tweed, a guy so smarmy and self-involved that he makes Hugh Grant’s previous cads – Daniel Cleaver (“Bridget Jones’ Diary”) or George Wade (“Two Weeks Notice”) – seem downright cuddly. Tweed, the host of ratings zeitgeist “American Dreamz” has just been dumped by his gorgeous American girlfriend, and without a regret in sight, he assures her she’s made an excellent decision. After all, who has time for a nuisance like love when you’re as rich and powerful as Tweed is? But truth be told he’s as bored as anything, so he sends his minions (the under-utilized Judy Greer and an unnamed cameraman) on a quest for more interesting “Dreamzers” for the upcoming season.
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, the newly elected President Bush – oops Staton (Dennis Quaid) – is on the verge of a nervous breakdown following his recent, rather close victory. After perusing the newspaper for the first time in years, he quickly discovers the world isn’t quite as black and white as the daily briefing from his very Dick Cheney-meets-Donald Rumsfeld VP Sutter (Willem Dafoe) would indicate. So instead of addressing the public, he hides as his approval ratings take a nosedive.
Now whether you’re a fan of President Bush or not, there’s no doubt that Quaid has his mannerisms, or at least a pretty convincing (and occasionally humorous) caricature of them down pat. Even better is Marcia Gay Harden as a dead-ringer for First Lady Laura Bush. But what’s probably not going to be as funny to the faith audience is when a potshot is taken at the President’s religious beliefs, namely his Bible-reading habits. Aside from that, however, Weitz isn’t nearly as wicked or biting in his obvious dislike for the President as say, Graydon Carter, in his monthly editor’s letter in Vanity Fair. By movie’s end, the President’s practically considered one of the good guys following his rather significant epiphany after serving as a guest judge (to boost those sagging approval ratings, of course) on “American Dreamz.”
What doesn’t work quite so well, however, in the humor or good taste department – even in a satirical offering like this – is the plot involving Omer (Sam Golzari), a young suicide bomber who hasn’t exactly shown much aptitude for shooting or killing tactics during his Al Qaida-esque training. Turns out his real love is for performing American show tunes, something his fellow trainees at the desert camp use to their advantage later when Omer, essentially the new William Hung ("American Idol," season three), is recruited for “American Dreamz” to balance out a singing Hasidic Jew. Without giving anything away for those planning to see the movie, winning the “Dreamz” title isn’t exactly Omer’s endgame, even though he’s not aware of it until much, much later in the competition.
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