Thank You For Smoking is a good example of satire that works. American Dreamz is a good example of satire that doesn't. This is particularly disappointing effort from writer/director Paul Weitz. While hoping for something along the lines of About a Boy or American Pie, he merely came up with more stuff like In Good Company and Down to Earth. Weitz's main issue is that it's not clear what he is trying to say in American Dreamz, or even if he is trying to say something at all. The movie gently lampoons American Idol, President Bush, and fame in general, while throwing in Arab terrorist and other assorted randomness.
The bulk of the film pokes fun at America's obsession with celebrity. American Dreamz is a show modeled on American Idol, and Martin Tweed (Hugh Grant, Bridget Jones 2: Edge of Reason, Love, Actually), is the acerbic British host, a la Simon Cowell. Tweed is bored with his job, and wants to spice up the current season. He decides to recruit an Arab to the show. What he doesn't know is that his choice, Omer (Sam Golzari) is a trained terrorist. Well, a badly trained terrorist. He was sent to Orange County, CA to get out of the way of his fellow terrorists, but now they see an opportunity to use him..
President Staton (Dennis Quaid, Yours, Mine, and Ours, Flight of the Phoenix) is trying to shore up his image and approval ratings by judging the finals of American Dreamz. Omer is ordered to wear a bomb so he can blow up the President, who speaks with a Texas drawl and acts dumb. There is a lot of stuff going on, but all of it seems to set up nothing. Weitz seemed to have fun setting up his characters and situations, only to throw them together and give them nothing to do. There's also the power-hungry Sally Kendoo (Mandy Moore, Racing Stripes, Saved!), who will stop at nothing to win the contest, and her earnest but naive boyfriend William Williams (Chris Klein, Just Friends, The United States of Leland).
One of the possible reasons that American Dreamz feels so hollow is that American Idol is already a parody of itself. And, depending on one's political bent, some may feel that George Bush is a parody. The acting and characterizations aren't great. The people are either naive or power hungry. The movie never falls enough to the point where it's bad; it just hangs in some strange limbo. American Dreamz is never dull, but Weitz never does anything to make it engaging.
|Haro Rates It: Not That Good.|
|1 hour, 47 minutes, Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and some sexual references.|
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