Two ‘Dreamers’ disagree

Robert Taylor

Film’s subject material stale, offensive, not fit for comedy

Mandy Moore, front, and Hugh Grant star in the “American Idol” part of the political satire film, American Dreamz. COURTESY UNIVERSAL STUDIOS

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

American Dreamz is an unmemorable comedy aimed at two of the easiest targets in the media. I doubt any joke in the film is fresher than three-week-old bananas, and despite a dream cast working its hardest to rise above the material, the end result is a utter train wreck of unbalance.

The one thing the film gets completely right is the cast. It’s an enormous cast at that, with every actor vying for his or her few moments in the spotlight for a chance to steal the show. Most of the supporting actors are familiar faces too, giving the comedy a homey feeling that works to the film’s advantage. As far as lead actors go, Mandy Moore is the biggest revelation: Who knew the woman behind Chasing Liberty could act? Supporting actors Shohreh Aghdashloo (from The House of Sand and Fog and TV’s “24”), Judy Greer (from “Arrested Development”) and Seth Meyers (from “SNL”) are great.

The script doesn’t give the actors much to play off of. Only one character has an actual arc to follow, the rest of the characters remain the same throughout the film, not evolving no matter what the circumstances surrounding them are. How are we supposed to care about people who don’t mature at all?

But the storyline tanks on so many levels that not even this cast could have saved it. It stumbles so badly that it forgets about most of the supporting cast for the ending, and we are left on the hook wondering about their fates.

The two main story lines never really gel together coherently despite two-plus hours of buildup, and even in the final act the (predictable) plot twists seem altogether forced.

American Dreamz

Starring Hugh Grant, Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid, Willem Dafoe

Directed by Paul Weitz

Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and sexual references

Stater rating (out of five): ?? (Bob) / ??? (Andrew)

By the end of the movie, one of the biggest rules of film comedy is broken. Without revealing who, how or why, I will say that at least one major character dies. Now, an audience is easy to laugh along in a comedy at characters because they know inherently that in the end everything will turn out OK and trials happening to a character in the first two acts will result in more rewards at the end. So, when liked characters are offed, suddenly the laughs stop and the audience feels very bad for laughing at that character earlier, and that’s what happens here.

Perhaps an audience could have forgiven the last-minute death if what had come before it was funny, but it isn’t. Early jokes in a terrorist camp cause more uneasiness than chuckles, and the only time the writing really works is when Moore is on-screen, and that has more to do with the actress’ charisma than a good joke.

In any creator’s hands, this probably couldn’t have been a good movie. After all, how hard is it to make a joke at the Bush administration’s expense?

Contact ALL reporter Robert Taylor at [email protected].