Satire works, but isn’t without flaws

Andrew Gaug

Dennis Quaid, left, stars as President Staton in American Dreamz. COURTESY OF UNIVERSAL STUDIOS

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Subjects such as terrorism, a president who is only starting to read newspapers at the beginning of his second term and a war that isn’t popular with the American public don’t seem like proper material for a comedy. But, somehow, writer/director Paul Weitz makes it work with American Dreamz.

Like Weitz’s past movies – About A Boy and In Good Company – he focuses in on people the media takes at face value – such as celebrities, businessmen and politicians. The president, who provides an endless amount of Bush jokes throughout the film, seems like a moron – but is actually a disillusioned politician whose heart is in the right place but brain isn’t.

An Arabian teenager named Omer is forced by a terrorist cell to blow up the president on television after he is accidentally picked to go on a fictitious singing competition, but his love for American culture and its people make him reluctant. Martin Tweed, the host of the most popular show in the world – “American Dreamz” – lives a life of luxury but hates himself and the fame the show has given him.

President Staton (Dennis Quaid) has just been re-elected for his second term in office after a really close race that he might not have won fairly. His presidency is under fire because of a never-ending war with the Middle East. To raise popularity, the Vice President (Willem Dafoe) concocts a scheme to put Staton on “American Dreamz,” the highest rated show on television.

Little do either the producer or the Staton administration know that among the contestants on “American Dreamz” is a sleeper terrorist who has just received orders to blow up the president during the season finale.

– Robert Taylor

However, Dreamz is not without flaws. The first half of the film has difficulty transitioning from character-to-character and the overused jabs at Bush grow old. But the film finds solid ground when using “American Dreamz” to make a comical mockery of hit television show “American Idol.”

The beginning of the content parodies past “Idol” stars such as long-haired rocker Constantine Maroulis – whose character auditions with a song with the lyrics “I’m a rockin’ man/A rock/rock/rockin’ man”- to crooner Fantasia whose character holds out notes for an absurd amount of time. These sequences create some of the biggest laughs of the film. Even cheesy catch phrases are poked fun at, such as Omer’s trademark line “You’ve been Omer-rized!”

As the movie progresses, its characters become more serious, but the film doesn’t sacrifice drama for comedy. Tweed’s self-loathing grows, but his sarcastic wit remains intact. Singer Mandy Moore’s attention-starved Sally Kendoo advances in the Dreamz’ competition and gets the fame she’s always wanted, but she’s not any smarter than when she first began.

The ending comes abruptly and doesn’t pay off as well as the buildup to it would suggest. But even with all of its flaws, Dreamz is a clever comedy that forces viewers to think, but also have a good laugh at the same time.

Contact ALL correspondent Andrew Gaug at [email protected].