American DreamzThursday 20 Apr 2006
Director: Paul Weitz
Starring: Hugh Grant, Mandy Moore, Jennifer Coolidge, Willem Dafoe, Sam Golzari, Dennis Quaid and Shohreh Aghdashloo.
Duration: 107 minutes
After the sloppy mess that was 'Yours, Mine & Ours', Dennis Quaid manages to acquit himself more favourably in the comedy stakes with his portrayal of dopey US President Staton in 'American Dreamz'. Unfortunately, not all the rest of the film is of such a high standard.
The morning after winning a second term in the White House, the Prez makes the mistake of picking up a newspaper and suddenly starts seeing the world in uncomfortable shades of grey rather than black and white absolutes. Rumours that he's gone bonkers quickly spread but, after intrusive chief of staff Sutter (Dafoe) ups his medication and gets him under control, he quickly has the President out on a publicity blitz - which includes acting as a guest judge on reality TV talent show 'American Dreamz'.
Hosted by self-loathing celebrity Martin Tweed (a rather wonderful Grant, playing against type), the programme has two from-the-start stars: Midwestern gal Sally Kendoo (Moore), with a constant eye on the prize; and sweet accidental terrorist recruit Omer (Golzari), who has been told that he has to get through to the final episode of the show so that he can blow the President up.
'American Dreamz' is directed (and written) by Paul Weitz who, with his brother Chris, has previously helmed films ranging from the ridiculous and funny 'American Pie' to the sublime, Grant-starring 'About A Boy'. Here, though, he seems to have bitten off more than he can chew comfortably. By trying to lampoon an incompetent president, a pop-obsessed reality TV show, white trash middle America and Arab terrorists, Weitz spreads 'American Dreamz' too thin. The efforts to poke fun at Arab stereotypes - from terrorist training camps to Omer's bling bling Americanised relatives - feel uncomfortable.
Although much of the comedy falls flat, there are a few good one-liners scattered throughout the film and a great cast manage to pull off some memorable scenes amidst all the plot confusion. 'American Dreamz' has its moments - it's just a pity it doesn't have more of them.