American Dreamz

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Review #101 of 365
Film: American Dreamz [PG-13] 115 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $6.00
Where Viewed: Lincoln Square Cinemas, Bellevue, WA
When 1st Seen: 21 April 2006
Time: 2:00 p.m.

Paris Hampton - American Dreamz

I suspect today’s lines of people eagerly awaiting a ticket to see the new film, American Dreamz, may be divided into two camps: fans of the Fox Network’s mega hit “American Idol” who thought this film would be a great send up to honor their favorite show – or – people who decidedly loathe “American Idol” (especially after their favorite, Ace Young, got ousted this week) and were hoping this film would be a welcome parody helping to put it in its place. Unfortunately, though it will probably be difficult for either camp to believe, neither camp will be happy with this debacle of a film.

To begin, if you have seen the preview, you have seen nearly every funny line in the film plus a bonus—unless I nodded off without realizing it, the line where Dennis Quaid, as the President of the USA, offers Hugh Grant, as “American Dreamz” host Martin Tweed, a Cheeto® does not appear in the actual film (of course that presumes that you found this line funny in the preview which you may not have). In any case, I do exaggerate to a degree, there are some funny parts in the film that are not in the movie. At least, I think there were. Not that I can think of any just now, and not that I would say what they were lest I be guilty of depriving you of what few funny parts you might not have yet seen.

Second, I am not sure exactly, but I am going to say it was about two thirds of the way in, it suddenly hit me. This movie was not going to really be able to go anywhere precisely because it was not appealing to either of the two main potential audiences or maybe because it was trying to appease both, I’m not sure. All I do know for certain is that at that point of realization, I lost nearly any ability to care about the outcome of the film. My apathy factor, in other words, rose to critical levels—which also is extremely rare in a guy who loves movies so much he goes every single day (day 101 in-a-row was today, in fact).

I kind of feel that the film was just too high concept; and, therefore, that it was sort of doomed from the outset. For those who have not seen the heavily promoted preview, here is the premise (and you can sort of glean it from the version of the poster shown above): America’s most popular television show “American Dreamz” hosted by Martin Tweed is about to begin a new season. Martin wants fresh new faces to liven up the show and bring even higher ratings. So, he sends his people to bring him a Jewish contestant and an Arab contestant. [You will note that we don't hear much about the Jewish contestant.] They also bring him Sally Kendoo (Mandy Moore) to represent the ‘middle class’ white demographic, and she brings along her own baggage in the form of her ‘war hero’ boyfriend William Williams (Chris “when is American Pie IV ever going to come out” Klein) to help pull the sympathy votes. Meanwhile, the second term president of the USA, President Stanton, for reasons attributed to the stress of an exhausting second campaign, is starting to doubt his purpose as president. To break him out of his funk and get him back into the public eye, his wife played by Marcia Gay “she hasn’t seemed this wispy since she played opposite of Robin Williams in the remake of Flubber” Harden and his chief advisor, played by Willem “hasn’t looked this uncomfortable in a role since he put on the Green Goblin costume in Spider-man” Defoe, conspire to (A) get him to take “happy” pills, (B) get him to wear an inner ear speaker so that they can control what he says and thinks from a distance so as to keep him on message, and (C) arrange for him to be the celebrity guest judge for the finale of “American Dreamz” to pique his poll numbers with the populace. Also meanwhile, Iraqi citizen Omer – The Omerizer (Sam Golzari), a closet show tune performer, whose mother was killed in the Gulf War when their house was bombed, gets sent by a cousin-in-law from an Afghani terrorist training camp where he was failing miserably to conform to live in southern California with some of his relatives until instructed further. His relatives turn out to be an honestly lovely family of former Iraqis who fled Baghdad to find their own version of the American dream in the USA. Apparently, it worked given their luxurious home and two children--daughter Shazzy (Noureen DeWulf) and son Iqbal (Tony Yalda)--who spend most of their time at the shopping mall. A twist of fate turns former “American Dreamz” hopeful Iqbal into Omer’s choreographer and vocal coach when Omer, instead, is selected by edict of Martin Tweed to become the newest “American Dreamz” hopeful. Now, connect the dots, if Omer rises to the finale, he will be on the same show with the President giving his comrades the opening they need to take out the President on live TV and really send a message to the world. So, Omer is basically told he must make the final two and then promptly martyr himself on live tv.

Does that sound too high concept?

Trying to make all of this fit together and yield a credible message without patronizing must have been an insurmoutable challenge for writer / director Paul “American Pie and About a Boy” Weitz. I think he may have taken on a bit too much, and the result is a film that ends badly and leaves the audience feeling quite jilted of their hard earned cash. Hence, the beauty of the W.I.P. Scale™. If you pay more than $6 to see this movie, you are not going to feel you got your money’s worth. I give it $6 and not $3 for the following reasons:
  • Hugh Grant plays the cad host Martin Tweed to delicious perfection. Definitely worth $1.
  • Sam Golzari brings humanity and infectious enthusiasm to Omer that is the one bright spot of the film, another $1.
  • Mandy Moore doesn’t sing that much in the film--final $1.
The cast, overall, does as good a job as can be expected given a high concept story that really just cannot figure out what it wants to say or be. I guess my advice for Mr. Weitz would be to start work immediately on American Pie IV. Not that a guy cannot break out of his mold and try something new; but, this, this just wasn’t what we were hoping for. He has a lot of talent and bright ideas, I'm not sure anyone could have made this film work.

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American Dreamz [DVD](2006) DVD

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1 comment:

Reel Fanatic said...

Weitz, who I still think can be a very funny guy, clearly took on more than he could handle with this one .. great review of a pretty bad movie