In Your Dreamz America
"There were some nice performances, some funny scenes but ultimately the storyline just doesn't work and it was dull" which is what I would imagine Simon Cowell might have said about "American Dreamz" a movie which not only tries to satirize the whole talent show phenomena but also terrorists and the Bush administration. It just fails to really have that bite, that disregard for being offensive that you want from a movie which tackles such wonders as the Bush administration and the whole fake ness of talent shows. It does have some funny scenes, but they are rare and for the most the performances are not overwhelmingly great. And so "American Dreamz" well it just doesn't make the cut.
As a new season of talent show "American Dreamz" rolls around producer and acerbic host Martin Tweed (Hugh Grant - Love Actually) is looking for another bunch of wanabees and wackos to keep it the most popular show on TV. At the same time President Joseph Staton (Dennis Quaid - The Day After Tomorrow) having just won another 4 years at the Whitehouse needs to raise his popularity having gone into hiding for 3 weeks and is lined up to appear as a judge at the final. All well and good except for the various participants lined up to appear which could endanger his life.
This biggest problem that "American Dreamz" has is not that it tries to build a storyline that merges terrorist activities with an incompetent President and the whole talent show thing but that it's too nice. For me a satire really needs to have a dig at those things its built around without fear of being nasty and offensive but "American Dreamz" pulls it's punches, it doesn't go for the throat at all making those moments where you know it's taking the proverbial pee out of something feel rather weak. There's no doubt that moments such as the scenes where they show the whole manufactured side to the talent show industry are mildly amusing, they never reach the point of generating laughter.
It doesn't help matters that with "American Dreamz" it tries to spoof both talent shows and the American Presidency and as such it feels a bit all over the place. For nearly the first hour it flicks between the different storylines from Dennis Quaid as President Joseph Staton having just won another 4 years in power to Hugh Grant as Martin Tweed and the new season of the talent show and the picking of participants. It feels pretty much disjointed and it's not until about half way through and it focuses more on the talent show side of things does it really sort of get your interest. Don't get me wrong because although it becomes interesting doesn't mean it becomes that good and the obvious arrival of a terrorist threat adds little to liven things up.
But whilst the storyline is frankly dull and the whole satire side of things is seriously restrained "American Dreamz" does have some surprisingly enjoyable performances. Hugh Grant, stepping away from the romance and playing it for laughs is amusing as the obviously Simon Cowell inspired Martin Tweed. In the scene where he is putting down the contestants with vicious acidic comments it almost feels like you're watching Cowell himself delivering the put downs. Dennis Quaid is equally as good as President Joseph Staton a character obviously based on George Bush and although the satire around the President is restrained it's still an amusing performance full of bumbling and mishaps.
But it's also all the other actors who make the performances work from Willem Dafoe who is surprisingly good as the Presidents Chief of Staff through to Chris Klein as Forest Gump like William Williams. Plus of course there is the delightful Mandy Moore who is wonderfully shallow as starlet Sally Kendoo.
What this all boils down to is that if it wasn't for the good all round performances from it's various stars such as Hugh Grant, Dennis Quaid and Willem Dafoe "American Dreamz" would be completely forgettable. For me it doesn't go for the jugular enough when trying to satirize not only talent shows but also the American Presidency and as such is a little too nice as if they didn't want to risk being offensive. It has its moments and there are some amusing scenes but ultimately it's rather dull.