|Starring: Hugh Grant, Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid, Willem Dafoe
Directed By: Paul Weitz
Rated: PG-13 for brief strong language and some sexual references
Review Posted: April 28th 2006
There is a fine line that a director runs when he weaves the web of the perfect satire. How do you take something that is a social or political norm and exploit it to an audience with out being too offensive or running into parody? Creating that perfect satire is a much harder task than you would think, but every once in a while you get that near perfect example of satirical gem that works in perfect harmony.
As I sat and thought long and hard about films that are the perfect balance of satirical humor, the one film that comes to mind in recent years is “Wag the Dog.” For most of you film geeks, you’ll realize that “Wag The Dog” is nearly ten years old, yet inn my mind an outstanding example of great witty satire. I am sure there are others in the last 10 years that have been great satire as well, but to me most of them seem to turn into too much parody instead. That’s why I was shocked when a film called “American Dreamz” came out of the middle of no where last week and despite no one knowing of it’s existence it may be one of the better satires I have seen in years.
American Dreamz is a film about a popular fictional TV show of the same name. The show is is a American Idol style show, one of those “you too can be a star” reality shows that flood the nation today. The host is a crude, rude yet semi appealing (in a Simon Cowell sort of way) man by the name of Martin Tweed. During his search for the next “American Dreamer” he discovers a small town country girl whom he starts to develop an emotional attachment to, an Arab terrorist with a love for show tunes who is secretly living in Orange County and a colorful cast of other contestants including a rapping Orthodox Jew. At the same time across the country we have a dim witted president who has just been re-elected and is suffering from a near nervous break down. In order to re-gain his people’s support, get back on his feet and show the world that he still has what it takes, he decides to make an appearance as a guest judge on the American Dreamz season finale.
The cleverly written script is what makes this film work so well on so many different levels. At first you can take the film at face value. There are funny parts filled with everyday slapstick comedy or even just the irony and parody of real life events this film provides. However underneath all that there is so much that a viewer misses on a one time viewing. By the time you are done watching this film, you’ll almost have to give it a second viewing to catch all those subtleties that you missed the first time around.
The script however only works because of a strong cast. The aging Hugh Grant’s stuffy dry British humor works perfectly when it comes to being a arrogant reality show judge. Grant has perfected his “lovable jerk” character in previous films such as “About a Boy,” “Two Weeks Notice” and “Bridget Jones Diary.” Paired up with Grant is pop star Mandy Moore, who plays that Jessica Simpson/Kelly Clarkson country girl to near perfection. But it’s Dennis Quaid who stands out taking on the role of President Stanton, the dimwitted depressed president who stars as a guest judge. Quaid with the help of his chief of staff, played by a very Dick Cheney-like Willem Dafoe they steal the screen every time they are on it.
So why does American Dreamz work so well? Because it hits close to home thats why. It finds an intelligent and sometimes subtle way of mocking the audience for our social and political situations today. We have a hit reality show that is more scripted than any sitcom in America today, and we have a dim witted president who is spoon fed info by his cabinet without ever being allowed to think on his own. (not that we have one of those in reality!) However the exaggeration of these situations and people mixed with the underlying social commentary this film provides gives us a chance to laugh at ourselves and the world around us.
If you get the chance, go check out American Dreamz. Not once, but twice! It’s a great film that gets better with each and every dose of it. There is so much going on in this film that I couldn’t begin to describe in this short review so you’ll have to trust me on this one. So don’t be afraid of it because you haven’t heard of it. Instead go out and check it out and be more afraid at the fact that it hits a little too close to home.