The Barenaked Archives: American Dreamz

From 2003 up until 2007, I was lucky enough to have “movie reviewer” as my job description. As such, I’ve built up a *lot* of reviews for just about every movie that came out during those years, as well as reviews of classic movies.

So, I give you my very first regular feature: The Barenaked Archives. These are reviews that I did for SIN or Hollywood Elsewhere (or both). Sadly, SIN and my column on HE are both gone, so this is now the only place online you can see these old columns.

Dreamz with a Zzzzz…

american_dreamz_webIt’s rare that we here in Oklahoma get to see a movie more than a month early. So when the student union offered a free screening of American Dreamz back in March, I was second in line, getting there early enough to ensure a good seat.

For the reasons why that action has now been filed under “Michelle’s worst idea of 2006,” see below.

There are many things about American life and culture that are ripe for satire. The Bush administration, although it’s been getting that treatment for awhile. Terrorists, because laughing at them helps negate the “terror” in the name. And, of course, reality television, although that practically makes fun of itself.

So, if just making fun of one of these things is good, making fun of all three is better, right?

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong.

American Dreamz (with a “z,” becauze God forbid we zpell anything right in America) is the ambitious movie that attempts to pull reality television, instant fame, terrorists, and the President into one film and satirize these issues within an inch of their lives. The problem with this tactic is that they wind up shoving too much into the film, and thus it commits the worst sin a movie can: it becomes boring.

And yes, they sing the phrase “dreamz with a ‘z'” in a song. The temptation to stab out my eardrums was overwhelming.

We have Hugh Grant, who plays Martin Tweed, the narcissistic host/judge of the American Idol-esque show American Dreamz. We have Mandy Moore as a small-town contestant on the show who would sell her soul to Satan to win, and then figure out a way to wiggle out of the contract. We have Dennis Quaid as the President of the United States, who is self-admittedly not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, and is currently undergoing an identity crisis. And relative newcomer Sam Golzari is Omer, a mostly inept wannabe terrorist who has the slight problem that he actually likes American culture, especially show tunes.

Supporting cast includes Willem Dafoe as the vice president running the administration, Marcia Gay Harden as the supportive First Lady, and Chris Klein as Mandy Moore’s head-over-heels boyfriend. With all these people, and coming from writer/director Paul Weitz, you’d expect something that would at least be moderately entertaining, if not actually funny, for two hours.

What you get is a movie that is so mind-numbingly dull that it took the mantra “you can’t review a movie you haven’t seen all of” to keep me in the theater.

This movie has all the subtlety of a tanker truck smashing into a moving train. They will never let you forget that Dennis Quaid is supposed to be President Bush and Willem Dafoe is supposed to be Vice President Cheney. Quaid’s terrible Texas twang, the references to his father being president before, and the fact that Dafoe could pass for Cheney’s twin make it painfully obvious for the entire two hours.

I’m all for political satire, but this went over the top so fast it lost any amusement factor that it may have had.

And that was just the political satire part, which would’ve been more than enough for one movie. But no, they had to add in reality television. Because otherwise we would’ve never figured out that most people who get on those shows aren’t necessarily chosen for talent, but for the conflict they can create, or that they’re cutthroat in their desire to win. Saying that you grow to dislike these characters is an understatement. You grow to loathe them.

It doesn’t help that the beginning of the movie has a rambling feeling, as they’re trying to introduce all these characters and get them into their spots. It takes so long to get going that I was checking my watch less than thirty minutes into the film. By the time it reached the end, I was hoping — no, praying — that half the cast would get blown up, because that would be the only way this could have anything resembling a satisfactory conclusion.

Unfortunately, that is not the case, and though there was death, it wasn’t enough to make the previous two hours worthwhile. The only reason I didn’t fall asleep was because the chairs in the theater were too uncomfortable.

American Dreamz isn’t like Ultraviolet, which is so bad it’s funny. This is just bad. The idea probably seemed funny, but the execution is terrible and the parts don’t make a cohesive whole. I beg you, do not waste your hard-earned money on this. Start studying for finals early instead. It’ll cost less and be considerably more entertaining.


One comment on “The Barenaked Archives: American Dreamz

  1. […] alike, needs to make time to see. This is how satires should be made (I’m looking at you, American Dreamz.) Share this:EmailLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

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