If the idea of a show-tune singing suicide bomber doesn’t make you laugh, then perhaps the new satire American Dreamz might be a bit too heavy handed for you. It takes on the things that we are all reading about in the newspaper everyday, depending on which section of the paper you look at—the war in Iraq, terrorism, American Idol worship and the nasty talent scout Simon Cowell. Each are American obsessions and each are skewered.
The movie is actually made up of four stories that are tied together by the televised talent show American Dreamz. Under the guidance of its producer and host, a smarmy Hugh Grant, it has become the number one show in the world. It’s so popular that in story number two the President of the United States has to beg to secure a spot as a guest judge, a move bound to raise his popularity a few points in the polls. Plotline number three sees a young singer who will stop at nothing to win the competition, and the fourth and final piece of the puzzle involves the aforementioned show-tune singing suicide bomber.
The movie is a good-natured send-up of current American pop culture, skewering everyone from the President on down, and while there are laughs, none of them have the same edgy bite as those on an average episode of The Daily Show.
Generally good performances from the cast, including Dennis Quaid as the President who doesn’t know what the word placebo means to Willem DaFoe as his right hand man—a hybrid of Dick Cheney and Karl Rove—and Hugh Grant as the pompous television host really sell what humor there is in the script.
American Dreamz is bound to be controversial, but I think it would have been a better film if they had pulled out all the stops and really gone for it. A director like Mel Brooks in his prime would not have ridden the fence with a film like this. Think of the comic anarchy of Blazing Saddles or the original Producers. Those were movies that delighted in offending the audience to make them think. By not mining the full potential of the material American Dreamz filmmaker Paul Weitz makes us giggle but doesn’t make us think.