Sunday, October 22, 2006

DVD: American Dreamz

• It's a must-see for American Idol haters.

Genres: Comedy, satire
DVD released: Oct. 17, 2006
Director: Paul Weitz
Cast: Hugh Grant, Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid, Chris Klein, Sam Golzari, Seth Meyers, Willem Dafoe, Marcia Gay Harden
Verdict: &&&1/2

This black comedy from American Pie director Paul Weitz seems brutally dark until you consider that Chuck & Buck is also among his credits. The targets are worthy: Firstly, America's obsession with televised karaoke contests (American Idol) and, secondly, politicians of questionable repute. Hugh Grant is outstanding as Martin Tweed, host of "America's most popular show," American Dreamz. Tweed is a self-loathing jackass who's bored with the show and looking for some contestants to mix things up. He's drawn to Sally Kendoo (Mandy Moore in Kelly Clarkson mode) because he sees she's as twisted as he is and likely has more desire to win than she has talent: Though she no longer loves him, she uses her boyfriend's (Chris Klein) sob injured-in-Iraq story to give her an edge on the competition. "Sometimes I look at you and I see my own reflection," Tweed tells her. "It's revolting. And attractive." Kendoo, who tells Tweed she's "not physically attracted to other people," dismisses Tweed as "no-talent" and "famous for being famous." Tweed's other find is Omer (Sam Golzari), an Arab terrorist who loves show tunes and has been sent to America to carry out an attack. Meanwhile, a Dubya-like president's V.P. arranges for the prez to be a guest judge on the American Dreamz finals. Surprisingly, the president (Dennis Quaid, nailing it perfectly) is portrayed as awakening to reality and a victim of his handlers, particularly the vice president. The threads intersect in rather surprising — and quite dark — fashion onstage during the final show of the season. There aren't a ton of laugh-out-loud moments in this movie, but it's a razor-sharp skewering of some of the more disappointing elements of our culture today. If this is in any measure atonement for American Pie, all is forgiven. // DVD notes // Deleted scenes include a number of cut performance sequences. "Center Stage: Sally Kendoo" plays like a behind-the-scenes look at American Dreamz as it might appear in a TV Guide Channel segment. "Dance Dreamz" describes the numerous inspirations for the dance steps (everything from Beyonce to Backstreet Boys), and the feature commentary includes Weitz and Golzari.

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