I know that many of the critics are panning this film and yes, American Dreamz is far from being spectacular, but I feel it's still enjoyable and funny in its goofiness. It’s also not just an American Idol spoof, but a commentary on American politics, as well. In fact, I was not prepared for all the political references and jokes, but welcomed them just the same.
Granted the tagline let audiences know its intentions: “Imagine a country where the President never reads the newspaper, where the government goes to war for all the wrong reasons, and more people vote for a pop idol than their next President.” Hmm..yeah, that's hard to imagine, isn't it?
Dennis Quaid plays recently re-elected President Staton of the United States. He's having a bit of a breakdown due to the stress of not understanding what he is doing nor comprehending the world’s politics at large after reading up on the country’s newspapers. In comes William Dafoe playing the president’s Chief of Staff and well, controller. To get his man/puppet back on track Dafoe gives Quaid some happy pills, schedules him on a lot of public appearances including being a guest judge on American Dreamz, where he puts an ear piece in his ear to guide him on what to say.
Academy Award winner Marcia Gay Harden plays the First Lady and her resemblance to Laura Bush is eerie. Although the two are supposed to make us think of the Bushes, they are also different enough to make them not seem like complete parodies. Both come off endearing in their haplessness.
Now back to the Reality TV part of the film: Hugh Grant plays Martin Tweed --the creator, judge and host of the popular show, American Dreamz (yes, that’s with a Z). He’s a mix of Simon Cowell’s arrogance and criticisms, mixed in with Ryan Seacrest’s over-the-top fakeness. In the search to make this season’s show the best ever, he wants diversity and is looking to cast an Arab musician hopeful as well as a Jewish singing wannabe. Of course, he finds both.
However, the young Arab character Omer, a show tune enthusiast, is also a failed terrorist-in-training who was sent to live in the OC with his rich distant relatives just so that he was out of the way and could not embarrass his family. Once he becomes selected as a finalist, his terrorist friends want to use his services again despite Omer’s hesitation and new-found love for America — the same country that killed his mother in a bombing during war time. I know for a second this sounds almost serious, but it’s all handled very tongue-in-cheek and over the top. The terrorists even wear laughably bad beards and have Tivo.