Directed by Paul Weitz.
Written by Paul Weitz.
Starring Hugh Grant, Mandy Moore, Sam Golzari and Dennis Quaid.
Release Year: 2006
Review Date: 4/23/06
Even though I've never seen "American
Idol"--REALLY, I have never seen it--I loved "American Dreamz"
thanks to a great mix of satire in writer/director Paul Weitz's
script and strong performances from stars in past Weitz productions.
Hugh Grant, who led Weitz's
"About a Boy" back in '02, plays
pretty much the same type of character he played the last time these
two hooked up, this time a self-centered bastard named Martin Tweed.
After getting dumped by his year-long girlfriend in the opening
moments of the film, Tweed gets back to his day job: producing the
most popular television show in America, American Dreamz, a
nationwide competition between 50 finalists to determine who should
be awarded a singing contract as a result of winning the show.
The contestants seem to be random candidates but in reality are
well-orchestrated ploys by the show's producers to represent just
the right kind of star with whom a national TV audience will fall in
love. The lead candidates: a white trash pop crooner
from Podookie, OH named Sally (Mandy Moore), a Jewish rapper named
Sholem (Adam Busch), and an Iraqi terrorist trainee named Omer (Sam
Golzari) whose mother was blown out of this existence by American
military teams but has a strange penchant for Broadway showtune
recitals. Meanwhile, the President (Dennis Quaid, from Weitz's
last major release,
Company") is in need of a major ratings boost from the people,
so his chief of staff (Willem Dafoe) arranges to have the President
appear as a judge on the finale of the popular TV program.
Whoa. There's a good amount going on
in "American Dreamz" (the movie, that is), but the movie is so
damned funny that even having no idea how closely Weitz comes to
nailing the FOX TV show on which this is based didn't matter...any
movie that is so good at nailing a commentary on an out-of-touch
President alongside giving us so much good stuff on why the fuck we
watch these silly contests where we supposedly can pick the winner
based on how many times we vote for somebody through our cell phone
is brilliant to me. The best thing about the humor is its
accessibility; it is smart in that it never gets too highbrow, but
never drags through the mud or gives us any real toilet, sexual or
gross-out humor either. Just watching Omer's vamping cousin
Iqbal (Tony Yalda) yell out in anger while trying to teach Omer how
to dance "IT'S JUST A BASS LINE, DAMMIT!" made our audience howl;
the performance by Yalda is maybe the best among a crowded field of
strong actors, because so many of the bits are small but effective.
Included in that are past Weitz performers
Quaid and Chris Klein (from "American
Pie"), as Sally's war veteran boyfriend; ever-present sidekick
Judy Greer as an assistant on the Dreamz producing team; Noureen
DeWulf, stunning in her beauty but also effective as Omer's more
vacant, status-happy cousin; and Dafoe, who seems to be taking
smaller roles but getting good at them, content to play bit player
at this stage in his career. Moore has real talent; after her
stronger acting work in the religious comedy
"Saved!" and now this,
maybe she will be able to move gracefully from pop star to
singer/actor hybrid when (if) her singing career fades.
Golzari hams it up--and glams it up, with the most ridiculous
costumes in recent history--as the Iraqi living out the real
American dream, and as the credits show, he has good voice talent to
go with a pretty good performance as a lackey in the terrorist
network that may or may not be willing to fulfill his original
I was very surprised by "American Dreamz";
good stuff all around. Maybe now I can see why there were so
many promotional showing of this film around town--the filmmakers
were pretty confident they had gold on their hands.
Rating: Opening Weekend
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard