It is the new season for the wildly popular singing talent show "American Dreamz" and the host, Martin Tweed (Hugh Grant – Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill), wants his producers, Ittles (John Cho – In Good Company, Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle) and Accordo (Judy Greer – Elizabethtown, 13 Going On 30), to find him some 'special' talent. He is bored with his show, even though it is the number one show on television, and wants something different. They manage to find two very different but talented singers in Sally Kendoo (Mandy Moore – A Walk to Remember, The Princess Diaries), a white trash girl from the Midwest who will do anything to win, and Omer Obeidi (Sam Golzari – first feature film), an Arab who has just immigrated to the United States. Sally hires an agent, Chet Krogl (Seth Meyers – from television's Saturday Night Live) and begins to even use her unsuspecting ex-boyfriend, William Williams (Chris Klein – American Pie, Here On Earth), who is a decorated soldier, in order to gain votes. Omer is living in Orange County with his relatives, including his aunt Nazneen (Shohreh Aghdashloo – House of Sand and Fog, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) and zany cousin Iqbal (Tony Yalda – first feature film), but he still has some ties with an extremist Arab terrorist cell, who want to use him to assassinate the President. President Staton (Dennis Quaid – The Big Easy, The Rookie), who has just recently been reelected to a second term in the White House, has holed himself up in his bedroom and started reading everything he can get his hands on. This has caused rumours to fly about that he has suffered a nervous breakdown. President Staton is convinced by his wife (Marcia Gay Harden – Mystic River, Pollack) and his Chief of Staff (Willem Dafoe – The Last Temptation of Christ, Spider Man) to insert himself back into the public conscience by becoming a guest judge on the finale of American Dreamz. With all this going on behind the scenes, the present season of American Dreamz could turn out to be its most interesting.
It would seem at first glance that there is plenty of material in American society and culture that would render making a farce/black comedy/satire of it easy, but apparently it is not so simple. American Dreamz tries to use topics such as the out-of-control popularity of shows such as American Idol, the stereotypical views that many Americans hold of Arabs, the state of politics in the U.S., and just the general overconsumption and greed of that country in order to poke fun at Americans. Unfortunately for director/writer Paul Weitz (Down to Earth, About A Boy) and the actors involved it is not done well. You can see what they are trying to do, but the weakness of the script does not allow them to get there with any kind of style or impact. Weitz tries to lambaste Bush, Cheney and American politics in general, but does not accomplish this. The film has that odd quality of having the feeling like the story is rushed and yet watching it it seems as if the film goes no forever. I was disappointed because Weitz has written/directed some good movies in the past. Hugh Grant is quite good in his Simon Cowell-like host/judge of American Dreamz, but it is not enough to save this mess. The whole film is not a write-off as there are some good moments, such as the parts in the film which point out the fact that the whole world seems to be preoccupied with American culture and how a nation a powerful as the United States can be run by an idiot who has every thing he says fed to him through an ear piece by his Chief of Staff. I think we really do need a satire of our obsession with fame, fortune, stars, and pop culture, but it has to be an intelligent coherent one or it suffers the same weaknesses as that which it is trying to mock.