There are people out there who are going to tell you American Dreamz was vapid and pointless. These people are going to warn you this film could have been so much more, it had so much potential, it just didn’t really add up and so on. You know what? These people are full of crap. You know why? Because they missed the boat on a very funny effort that never tried to be more than it was, a satirical and humorous look at the presidency and singing competition shows.
For the above two criteria it succeeds on every level. Where doesn’t it rule all? Well, it’s not a continuous laugh fest. It’s not a straight comedy because that would actually be impossible for a satire. American Dreamz is in the mold of Heathers and To Die For, or even a Christopher Guest film, not overtly in your face funny, but one degree away from reality (which is in fact funny). To really like it you have to be in tune with the archetypes from American Idol and appreciate no holds barred political cynicism. I would imagine that’s not a huge demographic so I feel bad for the whipping this one will probably take at the box office.
Hugh Grant plays Simon Cowell. I’m not going to bother with his character name because the movie clearly has Cowell in mind and it works so let’s just get it out in the open. Dennis Quaid plays President Bush (the current one). Willem Dafoe plays Cheney. Got it? Actually, on the note of who plays who, the very idea of this movie is pretty damn innovative. I, for one, never would have thought to combine the presidency with a reality show but somehow it all ties in here. Both of these strange creatures say a little bit about our American culture. Plus our votes mean so much for both, right?
American Dreamz reminded me a lot of an 80’s style comedy in that it’s very episodic. The film jumps around a lot from the White House, to the show, to a terrorist training ground, all in all it has the pedigree of a Police Academy in that it puts the characters into funny situations and lets it play out until the next funny situation comes up. American Dreamz never attempts a real flow which didn’t bother me in the slightest because it was clear that wasn’t the goal. The weakness of this method comes through when people don’t feel like it’s adding up to as much as they hoped. This is the reason for the B grade; most people simply won’t love the premise or think the movie made a ton of sense on a grand scale.
Honestly, maybe it doesn’t. It doesn’t have the range of a Thank You for Smoking (even though it is in fact funnier overall). And sure, the plot could have made more sense or been more logical but I’m not sure why anyone would judge a comedy on those standards. I don’t go to comedy for historical accuracy or a life lesson. I go to laugh and American Dreamz made me laugh. Perhaps that’s a grand enough accomplishment in this time of such great stress for all us Americans. After all, I probably don’t need to remind you we’re at war. If you want a decent funny flick check this one out. If you are feeling surly, political, or in need of substantial film stay home and watch that show where the guy interviews other guys about the “craft of acting”.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out an opposing view here.