It's true a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, but with director Paul Weitz this leads to just a minor annoyance.
In "American Dreamz," he knows a little about farce, a little about satire and apparently even less about how the world around him works.
The scenario: Hugh Grant, playing his usual annoying cad, is host of "American Dreamz," an "American Idol" spoof. Contestants include Mandy Moore's Sally Kendoo as a stand-in for Carrie Underwood and Sam Golzari's Omer, an aspiring Arab terrorist who is conflicted because, well, he just wants to croon showtunes. The president, suffering low approval ratings, signs on to judge the finale. There's way too much more going on here, but let's just say it leads to a supposedly explosive finale that's truly a dud.
Having watched, perhaps, five minutes of "American Idol" in my entire life, I nonetheless thought the spoofing on the show was the movie's strongest point. That Bo Bice ringer singing "Rocket Man" was pure comedy, almost as good as Shatner. But, had I gone to get a refill on my coke, I would have missed the five minutes of competition that led to Mandy, Omer and a Hasidic rapper (Adam Busch) being crowned as the finalists.
(There's a joke in here somewhere ... Mandy Moore, a would-be Arab terrorist and a Jewish rapper walk into a bar .. but I digress .. focus!)
One more word about the "Dreamz" stuff: Mandy Moore is a born charmer, and a great singer, and in a so-called spoof of "Idol" we get to see her sing for all of about five minutes? Christopher Guest could have built a solid little spoof around the whole "Idol" phenomenon that would have given her much more to work with, but Weitz apparently had little interest in that.
In another under-developed story line, Dennis Quaid is game to play a sendup of W., but he's given absolutely nothing to work with here. Weitz takes one joke, that VP Cheney (in the movie represented by a fairly funny Willem Dafoe) is the puppet master at the White House.
Well, that is most likely true, but painting the president as a total dingbat misses an opportunity. W. may be many things, but I don't think he's stupid. He knows exactly what he's doing, and much of it is, indeed, scary.
Setting up a more developed version of our current president, whose poll numbers right now are probably enough to make him crave a spot on "American Idol," could have been seriously funny.
The kind of funny Weitz showed flashes of with "American Pie" and even moreso with "About a Boy."
I would have laughed a lot more at either a real spoof of "American Idol" or a "Wag the Dog"-type satire of the Bush gang. I just wish Weitz had picked one and run with it, instead of taking on way too much and just falling flat.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Posted by Reel Fanatic at 2:42 PM