July 23rd, 2008


Mandy Moore stars as a white trash singer with aspirations of superstardom who goes on the nation’s top rated reality show, American Dreamz, which is hosted by the English asshole/Simon Cowell wannabe Hugh Grant.  Meanwhile the President (Dennis Quaid) reads a newspaper for the first time in four years and becomes so depressed about the actual state of the union that be becomes a virtual shut-in.  To reverse the negative PR, the scheming Vice President (Willem Dafoe) books him on the show as a guest host, but little does he know there’s also a contestant on the show who is also an Islamic terrorist with strict orders to blow up the Commander in Chief. 


Satire is tricky business because you have to be simultaneously criticizing AND making fun of your intended targets.  If you are just making fun of something, then you’re just making fun of something.  Unfortunately, American Dreamz does neither of these things.  You can tell the film is desperately trying to satirize A) Reality TV, namely American Idol.  B) The Bush administration and C) Islamic terrorists.  All of these things COULD be ripe picking for a satirical comedy, but American Dreamz fails to make any worthwhile commentary on any of its subject matter.  It’s as if director Paul (American Pie) Weitz thought that merely PRESENTING the material would be enough. 


I mean sure you can satirize reality TV as much as you want, but the POINT of reality TV is that random ass Americans saying unscripted shit is funnier than what some Hollywood screenwriter could concoct.  All the contestants in American Dreamz are pretty thinly sketched and their antics pale in comparison to other crazy fuckers we’ve seen on REAL reality shows such as American Idol, Survivor, and Rock of Love. 


More laughs are to be had from a single episode of American Idol than the entire running time of this crap.  You know it’s not a good sign for a satire if the target you’re satirizing is actually funnier than the satire itself. 


But making fun of reality shows aren’t the biggest problem Weitz has; it’s the send-up of President Bush that totally doesn’t work at all.  He establishes that the President is a stumbling idiot who is simply a pawn for the power hungry vice president.  I’m sure this might have made for a funny set-up (it certainly seems TRUE enough), but Weitz completely squanders things when the President actually starts to CARE.  It’s as if we’re supposed to say, oh he’s not really such a bad guy after all.  Weitz lets the President off the hook way too easily and as a result, dulls whatever satiric edge there might have been to this toothless mess. 


Quaid does a dead on Bush-but-not-really-Bush impression, but he’s given very little to work with scriptwise.  Dafoe fairs slightly better (and is a dead ringer for Dick Cheney) although his role is paper thin.  Grant is OK, but Moore is simply irritating as all Hell.  None of the performers are ever really given anything very funny to do.  It’s a sad state of affairs when ONE Sanjaya hairdo can get more laughs than this movie.