American Dreamz

Low on budget but high on star quality, low on eye candy but high on story, low on effects but great on entertainment value.

This is what I think of American Dreamz, and when you’ve watched it, you’ll hopefully agree that it’s the type that’s best appreciated the way it is.

It’s been awhile since we’ve gotten a good satire, and Dreamz delivers like a Fedex truck. It makes fun of everything and everyone – politics, popular talent shows, people behind those talent shows, terrorists, celebrities, basically everyone who’s ever though a little too highly of themselves. This movie just brings it on.

Plot

The plot is simple. American Dreamz is a wildly popular talent show hosted by Martin Tweed (Hugh Grant), (do I need to indicate what show it criticizes?), and the movie follows the stories of its latest discoveries Sally Kendoo (Mandy Moore) and Omar Obeidi (Sam Golzari).

Dennis Quaid plays a U.S. President secretly recovering from a nervous breakdown, and is made to be guest judge in the finals by his Chief Of Staff William Dafoe for PR purposes.

Broadway lover Omar was originally trained as a terrorist, and is contacted by his superiors to assassinate the President. Meanwhile, Sally and Martin are discovering a liking for one another, and all sorts of plots and subplots revolve around these main stories.

Performances

The highlight performances are easy to make. I’ve always loved Hugh Grant in an anti-hero role, starting when I first saw him as the insufferably conceited boss in the Bridget Jones series. As the bumbling handsome lead character such as that in Four Weddings and A Funeral, Notting Hill and Love Actually he is funny and endearing, but as a bad guy he truly shines, and he brings this charisma to Dreamz.

Then there is Mandy Moore, and I cannot think of anyone who can fit the role she plays better than her. On a personal note, I had the chance to meet her years ago when she visited Manila on a tour, and promptly botched it when I failed to pick up the phone when my editor was calling to ask me to come along for the interview, knowing I was a fan. I will regret this incident for the rest of my movie watching and music listening life, which I’d started to get over until I watched her again in this movie. She really is a pop star with a difference – she looks great, can sing, act, is easily the most talented amongst her age group and deserves her fame the most.

And as the surprise act, there’s Tony Yalda, Omar’s very gay, very outlandish and very untalented cousin, born and bred in the US to a wealthy family. While he’s in most scenes from halfway in the movie onwards, he strutted his stuff in those where he played the desperate but talent-challenged Dreamz aspirant. There is not a moment you won’t be laughing everytime he is on the screen, and I started to miss these performances later on when he was relegated to Omar’s manager.

Pulling It Off

I’ve always felt that if you brand a movie as a farce or satire instead of just a comedy, it’s easy to go downhill from there. The subject matter can get far too serious – blind ambition, an out of touch President, an American public that cares more about a TV show than the elections.

It’s safe to say however, that American Dreamz pulls it off quite nicely. I enjoyed this movie from start to finish, and I love the idea that it didn’t have to be a big production to do so.

It isn’t perfect, as there are scenes, such as the decision to cut out the Chief Of Staff for the President’s wife, that didn’t make sense to me. Also, the whole unrequited love subplot between Chris Klein and Mandy’s character never took off. Klein never managed to show what his character was all about, whether he was good, bad or just confused (turned out he was confused), and it all pretty much fails. But overall, it’s a fun 107 minute romp of laughter and enjoyment. And if you think about it, that’s what a satire should do before anything – make people laugh, and hopefully they’ll get the message after.

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