American Dreamz

American Dreamz

*1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The targets are sitting ducks and yet Paul Weitz misses by miles. After the breakthrough teen sex comedy American Pie and the excellent adaptation of Nick Hornby's About A Boy, Weitz has fallen flat in the do-do with this sad satire on TV talent shows. The gags are obvious, the performances uneven, the plot witless.

Would you want to watch a movie poking fun at I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here? The answer is, why bother when the show itself is a send up? The same goes for American Idol, which has become a phenomenon in the States, with its emphasis on the judges' bad behaviour and the contestants' hyped "life stories".

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When Will Ferrell made Anchorman, it appeared that the bottom had fallen out of "entertainment" comedy, but, unbeknownst to anyone with a smattering of humour still uncrushed, there was a false bottom to the genre, and now American Dreamz has crashed through it. From the viewpoint of Dennis Quaid's US President ("Placebos? Aren't they illegal?"), Anchorman looks pretty damn funny.

Not content with bringing in Hugh Grant as a Simon Cowell figure, hosting the show with professional cynicism, Weitz takes swipes at George Dubya (Quaid) and suicide bombers (Sam Galzari). The plot demands that a) the President is in the studio for the final episode and b) a Taliban activist is one of the last two contestants. Okay, it's not Shakespeare; it's not even Shakespeare's dim sister.

The Bush jokes are the least affective, because they are based on a single premise - the man's an idiot. Quaid wanders about like a mental patient in a fog, guided and prompted by his chief of staff (Willem Dafoe, made up to look like Dick Cheney, and by far the best thing in the movie). The First Lady (Oscar-winning Marcia Gay Harden) calls her husband "Poopy" and asks whether he has taken his "happy pills". Her role is obsolete from Take One.

The other American Dreamz finalist is blonde teenager Sally (Mandy Moore), whose rapacious ambition makes her a showbiz natural. She'll lie and fornicate for fame if it brings her closer to the prize. Her single-minded attitude, devoid of romance or emotion, is oddly refreshing. In a world of innocents and phonies, she knows what she wants and learns how to fake it.

Television reality shows, as Germaine Greer discovered, are vulgar, intellectually void, manipulative and cruel. American Dreamz is all of these and less.

Reviewed on: 21 Apr 2006
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Satire of American Idol, George Dubya and suicide bombers.
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Read more American Dreamz reviews:

Andrea Mullaney ****

Director: Paul Weitz

Writer: Paul Weitz

Starring: Hugh Grant, Dennis Quaid, Mandy Moore, Willem Dafoe, Chris Klein, Jennifer Coolidge, Sam Golzari, Tony Yalda, Seth Meyers, Shohreh Aghdashloo

Year: 2006

Runtime: 107 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US

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