‘American Dreamz’ spreads itself too thin
Admirably ambitious, “American Dreamz” nonetheless bites into a bigger piece of the pie than it’s capable of chewing.Yes, it’s the fourth Paul Weitz movie with “American” in the title – with his brother Chris, the director-producer-writer made two “Pie” movies and the “Wedding” that completed that trilogy. But “Dreamz” isn’t related, even though Chris Klein and Jennifer Coolidge (aka Stiffler’s Mom) figure prominently.It’s much closer to the bloodline of “In Good Company” and Weitz’s adaptation of Nick Hornby’s “About a Boy”: not as broad a comedy, but one with more of a point.But whereas “In Good Company” focused on a few characters and managed to make a larger point about corporate culture, the scope of “American Dreamz” is much larger. Its tagline urges viewers to imagine a country with a leader who doesn’t read the newspaper, that’s at war for the wrong reasons, and where more people vote to crown a pop idol than in the presidential election.Dennis Quaid, a “Good Company” holdover and a Texan to boot, plays President Staton as an almost-caricature of the current chief executive. I say almost because after Staton staves off stern challenge to win a second term in office, he starts reading the papers. But his real source of information is his chief of staff, who Willem Dafoe plays as an unnaturally smooth blend of Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.Omer (actor Sam Golzari) loses his mother in a war on terror and joins a terrorist training camp along the Afghan-Pakistan border. But he’s also a song-and-dance man, as is his Americanized cousin. Iqbal (actor Tony Yalda) is angling for the spotlight on “American Dreamz,” a knockoff of a certain popular TV show replete with a caustic British host (Hugh Grant, who starred in “About a Boy”) who typically eviscerates contestants like small-town girl Sally Kendoo (Mandy Moore, ably sending up other teen idols).The movie’s goal is to unite all those elements into a coherent whole while sending up the pop culture that spawned them. If that seems like a lot of territory to cover, it is. The fact that it takes “American Dreamz” only 107 minutes to close that wide of a circle exacerbates the damage. The vast scope spreads it too thin.That’s not to say it’s not amusing. It’s often very funny, and I understand it’s dead-on in sending up “American Idol,” but maybe I’m just missing the joke because I’ve never seen it.Even though Weitz, once again, proves he can move beyond broad comedy, the scope of “American Dreamz” dulls its sharp point.
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