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December 5th, 2005:
For the first time in four years, the President of the United States (Dennis Quaid) decides to pick up the newspaper. Fascinated and obsessed by the information he finds, he starts to reexamine his views on world affairs. Startled by the Presidentís sudden irrational behavior, his Chief of Staff (Willem Dafoe) creates a diversion to ease his mind. He books the President as a guest on his favorite television program, the immensely popular talent show American Dreamz. Hosted by the pompous Martin Tweed (Hugh Grant), the show features two notable contestants: Sally (Mandy Moore), the conniving, but seemingly innocent girl next door and Omer, a terrorist in training. As the two head toward the inevitable finale, where the President will be judging, America is guaranteed a show they will never forget.What to Expect:
Iíll have to admit that I was not too impressed with this idea when I first heard about it. An American Idol parody seems way too obvious and more for the teenybopper crowd. Sally, the Mandy Moore character, just struck me as a terribly obnoxious version of every annoying contestant or wannabe that has been featured on the disposable show. Mooreís dramatic abilities surprised and impressed me three years ago in the exceedingly sappy, but still enjoyable A Walk to Remember. Sheís a class above the Britneyís of the world and definitely has a future as an actress. However, in American Dreamz, it just seemed like she was playing down into the stereotype that once included her. Regardless of whatever else was going to be in the movie, I had already dismissed it due to the disappointing satirical premise. Article continues below
All that changed when I realized that Paul Weitz was the writer and director of the comedy. Teens can thank him for his first feature film, the outrageous American Pie, and all the imitations that ensued. It has become an undeniable part of pop culture history, but itís only Weitzís third best film in my opinion. In 2002, he made the witty, unexpectedly poignant, and even brilliant About a Boy, starring Hugh Grant. It showed incredible maturity from Weitz. He was even rewarded with a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nomination. He followed the bittersweet comedy with a similarly even-handed In Good Company, starring Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, and Scarlett Johansson. Both of those films exhibited a charming quality and genuinely affecting characters without sacrificing the humor. Weitz has truly developed as a filmmaker since the adolescent jokes of American Pie and has made a believer out of me regarding American Dreamz.
The political satire of the new Weitz comedy always showed more promise than the American Idol parody. The reliable and underappreciated Dennis Quaid should be able to pull off the dim-witted President with skill and grace. The actor has been getting better with age and his rich sense of humor has proven especially valuable in recent years. Of course, Willem Dafoe is quite adept at delivering unusual wit himself and his Chief of Staff will probably have an amusing creepiness about him. With Marcia Gay Harden as the first lady, American Dreamz should contain quality comedic performances from the ensemble cast. The tricky part will be tying the political satire and the pop culture parody together with a terrorist plot, without becoming too slapstick. Itís easily the most challenging comedy that Weitz has undertaken.In Conclusion:
I donít like the way it looks from the filmís trailer, but Iíll just have to give the filmmakers the benefit of doubt and follow Roger Ebertís old rule: producers make trailers for the type of movie they wish they got, instead of the one that the director actually made. I believe that this is the case with American Dreamz as it is being marketed for the same short attention span audience that enjoys American Idol. Hopefully, it will contain all the intellect and appeal of Weitzís previous two comedies. Iím confident that the director will once again find the right tone for the humor and will not allow it to decline into stupidity.
As an interesting side note, itís possible that the idea originated from George W. Bushís declaration that he does not read newspapers, preferring instead to receive all information directly from Dick Cheney.Similar Titles: Dick