The President of America, Joseph Staton (Dennis Quaid), is currently having grievous doubts about his own station in life. He is on anti-depressants. He is troubled by the problems in the Middle-East. He is told what to say by his Chief of Staff (Willem Dafoe). Plus on top of that, he has sheltered himself away from the public eye.
So who do you think his Chief of Staff can turn to, just to help him expose the President in a better light? Why none other than Martin Tweed (Hugh Grant) of course. The head honcho of the top rated reality television music competition in America, ‘American Dreamz’.
You see, shrewdly, both Martin and the Head of Staff, plan for the president to appear on the finals of his talent show. However, before this happenstance can occur, Martin has to get some wannabe hopefuls to star in his show first. But who does he get?
SALLY KENDOO (Mandy Moore): Sally is a bitch who really wants to be a star. Now once she knows that she is going to be on the show, she hires an agent, and along with him and her Mother, Martha (Jennifer Coolidge), utilizes her Americana persona to win favor with the public. Moreover, just to give Sally that extra edge, she dupes her dumped-upon boyfriend’s status as an Army veteran, Martin (Chris Klein), before setting her sights on Martins mutual attraction to her.
OMER OBEIDI (Sam Golzari): Omer is an Arab who just loves to sing. By accident, he is accepted onto the show though a misunderstanding with Martins hired help. Nevertheless, he is still encouraged to partake on this road to stardom, in a number of different ways. Firstly, by Marin’s need for a ‘novelty act’ for his show. Secondly, with some encouragement from his extended family in America. And thirdly, by his previous terrorist organization friends in the jihad, who want to attack at the president.
Plus many, many more...
Hey! After many-many rounds of 'American Dreamz' are aired and shared, guess which two contestants manage to reach the finals? Correct – Sally and Omer. Great news, right? No - not really. Because the night before this show, both Sally and Omer are presented with two strange dilemmas. For Sally, her boyfriend is persuaded to propose to her live of the show – something that she does not really want any part of, but does not say. Whereas for Omer on the other hand, he is told by his terrorist friends, how he will aide them in blowing up the president in a suicide pact – something that he doesn't really want no part of either, but doesn't say.
Oh! Maybe that is why what next transpires kicks off the following night. As passions are expressed – harmonies are sung – ploys are intercepted – presidents are bold – and bombs do explode – all resulting in an American dream to finally be foretold.
Do you know what? The makers of 'American Dreamz' have missed a trick with this film you know. It has nothing to with its validity as a film (as it is good in places). But rather, it is all to do with the way that the story is told.
I just find that this 'comedy' has a message at its core, one relating to the follies of public perception, and how the people behind the scenes coerce and cajole what is what. OK, so the basic pretext is based around a reality television show like 'American Idol' – which is a very good pretext. Though the overall execution of this message is hindered by the way that the story is conveyed.
OK, I know that what I am saying does sound somewhat strange – as a film without a story is not a film, right? Wrong. And the reason why I say this, is because it could have also been told in a mock-documentary fashion. Just think about it for a moment, we all know that reality television is just a way for money men to make more money off of the backs of the unsuspecting public – so there is nothing new there. But what if this film satirized that concept in a more direct fashion, by poking fun at this pretext within the confines of a more personal medium. Mock-documentaries do that very well. Look at films like 'Spinal Tap' and 'The Rutles' for example (click here for the review) – they take the piss out of the entertainment industry in such a direct and personable way, that the message behind these movies is that much more apparent.
However, what ‘American Dreamz’ does instead of this, is spoof and imitate rather than satirize. Still, is this necessarily a bad thing? Hmm? Probably not. It just conforms too much to standardized objectives, rather than make a message about what it wants to say.
OK, so what does this picture say? Nothing that much that we do not already know I am afraid. Granted, the cast is good. Hugh channels Simon Cowell. very well. Dennis channels George Bush Jr. in a very off-kilter yet bold manner. Plus Mandy and Sam both channel a bastardized versions of a number of pop princesses and wannabe hopefuls alike. But apart from that – plus a number of jumbled sub-plots that that converge very nicely at the end of the film – this is basically a paint it by numbers spoof on an industry.
Listen; I am not trying to say that this film is a bad film. Oh no. I especially liked most of the scenes involving Dennis and Sam’s characters. However, the scenes with the not so nice characters in them – Hugh and Mandy – well? Why should I care about these people, huh? OK, Mandy and Hugh do a great job of making their characters dislike-able and shallow. But I am afraid to say that they do not have that charm-factor which makes you want to care for them as well.
Overall ‘American Dream’ is an OK-ish film. With good bits in it, bad bits in it, and so-so bits in it. I just wished that it could have been so much more.
Wait a minute! So is my dream to remake ‘American Dreamz’? Hmmm. Nice idea.
THE RATING: B-