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Film Review ***..: Everyone...s Gotta Have ...American Dreamz...

Supporting Characters, Ridiculous Humor Steal the Show in Theaters

By Alice Macdonald

American Dreamz

Written and directed by Paul Weitz

Starring Hugh Grant, Dennis Quaid,
Mandy Moore, Willem Dafoe, Chris Klein

Rated PG-13

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Let me commence by saying that “American Dreamz” is actually funny! After viewing the trailer, I had my doubts, but I can honestly say that this is one of the few comedies I have seen in recent years that doesn’t give away its funniest moments in the previews. What makes this film so enjoyable is the amazing cast, which includes Dennis Quaid, Hugh Grant, Willem Dafoe, and Mandy Moore. Do I really need to say more? Yes, as a matter of fact, because the cast would be incomplete without the plethora of minor characters. It was these charming performances that really won me over — as much as I hate to admit it, unknowns like Sam Golzari and Tony Yalda managed to upstage the god that is Hugh Grant.

The plot of American Dreamz is so wacky, it appears a little strange in print, but here goes nothing. The newly re-elected President (Quaid) freaks out and begins to realize that he is just a puppet while his VP (Dafoe) and wife (Harden) are the ones actually calling the shots. Meanwhile, Martin Tweed (Grant), host of America’s most watched show, “American Dreamz,” is beginning a new season. Tweed, along with his faithful assistants (brilliantly played by John Cho and Judy Greer), embark on finding weirdo contestants for the show. They need a white trash contestant, which they find in Sally Kendoo (Moore), supported by her mother (Coolidge), boyfriend (Klein), and sleazy new agent (Meyers). On the other side of the world, terrorists are training new recruits, but decide to get rid of a troublesome, show-tune-loving trainee, Omer (Golzari), by shipping him off to America.

Here is where things get complicated as many smaller, but important, characters are introduced. Omer moves in with his affluent aunt, uncle, and two cousins (played by Tony Yalda and Noureen DeWulf) in the O.C. (I can’t believe I called it that.) Several quirky scenes later, Omer ends up a finalist on “American Dreamz,” and the president is planning on being a guest judge for the final episode. Believe it or not, it gets crazier, but I’ll let you find that out for yourself.

You may be wondering: what about all this is so fantastic? I wish I could tell you, but as with fart jokes and physical comedy, the goofy gags and one-liners in this movie can’t help being hilarious. Should images of Hasidic Jews rapping, effeminate men singing show tunes, or terrorists filming training videos be funny? I guess the answer is no, but even if those scenes are not for you, this film also offers more.

For one thing, American Dreamz is delightfully satirical. The writers didn’t hold back, as pretty much everyone and everything is a target: Bush and his administration, Britney Spears, Ryan Seacrest, the entertainment industry, the army, immigrants, terrorists, and gay stereotypes. Quaid is obviously impersonating Bush, as he uses a similar accent and makes lots of confused faces. The portrayal of terrorists was interesting as the film humanizes them, with the message that they are just like us.

Some of the jokes and the overuse of stereotypes could be offensive, but it is hard to be truly bothered when the whole story is so over the top. One of the best things about this movie is its disregard for the typical formula used in similar movies. It comes up with a semi-original ending — let’s just say it will blow you away.