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What The Heck Is AMERICAN DREAMZ, And Why Is Hugh Grant Such An @$$Hole?!

Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...

In the movie. I meant, in the movie, why is Hugh Grant such an asshole? That’s all. Seriously.

I have to confess I haven’t heard a thing about this film until I read this review, and now I’m intrigued. I like Paul Weitz and his work so far, and I’m intrigued by the ambition of something like this. Lots of people seem to have set their sights on STRANGELOVE and NETWORK these days, and between this and SOUTHLAND TALES, next year could be a really good one for big satire. Let’s see what Constable Kreegal thinks:

Hey Quint & the AICN gangsters, Constable Kreegal here with another review for you, this time of the upcoming off-beat comedy "American Dreamz"...

Last night, fighting a head-cold, I went to a screening of American Dreamz, the new film by Paul Weitz, director of such fun-filled romps as In Good Company, About A Boy and American Pie, at the Sherman Oaks Galleria. We were, according to Too Happy To Be There Lady, the very first audience to ever see this film.

What can I say about this film that hasn't already been said? Has anything been said? At all? Ever?

Anyway, here's the breakdown: The film is a fairly scathing satire on American pop culture, our government and American Idol.

Here we have two, arguably three, major plots. The first is American Dreamz, the "American Idol" show run by Hugh Grant in the Simon Cowell role as "guy-in-charge" of the show. Unlike "Idol", he's the only judge, and Grant falls into the role of asshole very easily. It's the most watched show in the entire world, and he's miserable.

The second plot is Dennis Quaid as the President of the United States, doing his best George W. impersonation, Willem Dafoe as a Dick Cheney clone, complete with bald head and lumpy gut, and Marcia Gay Harden as the first lady. The Prez wakes up one day and decides to read the newspaper, which sets Dafoe into damage control mode, as he usually not only keeps track of what the Prez reads, but literally tells him what to say to everyone via an earpiece.

The arguable third plot is that of terrorists, starting the film shooting a "training video", with one terrorist who continues to screw up on film and that they eventually fire after catching him listening to show tunes in his tent. He is sent to live with his family in Orange County, and told a sleeper cell would eventually contact him to do something.

All of these things are happening at the same time, and as time goes on, they interconnect, as the useless terrorist, through some fault of his own, becomes a contestant on American Dreamz, and the Prez, through Dafoe's conniving, becomes a judge on the final round of the show.

In the meantime, Mandy Moore, playing a singer from Ohio, is another contestant, with a boyfriend, Chris Klein, who loves her more than life itself. She dumps him when she gets picked for the show, he joins the military, goes to Iraq, gets shot and comes back, leading Moore's new agent, Seth Meyers, to re-invent their relationship to play for television. Everybody loves a war veteran supporting his girl's American Dream(z) right?

You can probably figure out the rest of the zany plot from this point: live television, the Prez, terrorists and a singer who wants to be famous. Hilarity ensues.

As for the film, it seems a little clunky in parts, but overall it's a fairly well-made satire. Other than changing the names of the key elements, the characterizations are dead-on and, several times, laugh-out-loud funny. It's as if Primary Colors was played for laughs and the plot was absurd. Which, I think, works.

This film is a lot more American Pie than About A Boy, but there's no nudity and very little profanity, although because of the relative absence of cursing, when the characters do swear, it actually makes for a good laugh or holds some weight.

Dennis Quaid is very good here, only to be overshadowed by a perfect performance by Willem Dafoe. They each take turns shitting all over our governments inner-workings, showing us exactly what a lot of people think is happening already behind-the-scenes in real life.

Hugh Grant doesn't have enough screen time, but for some reason, I always like watching him. I don't know why. But he's very solid here, ripping contestants apart, being a ridiculously huge star and still missing something in his life.

Sam Golzari, as Omer, the bad-at-his-job-terrorist-turned-singing contestant, captures the best of several different cultures at once, proving again that sometimes non-A-List actors can walk away from a film knowing they carried the weight of it on his or her shoulders, and that he or she carried it well.

Several real-life folks walked away after the film ended wanting a different sort of closure to the flick, but, frankly, the end was my favorite part. I won't divulge what happened, as it was mildly explosive and finally gave Chris Klein something to do in the movie, but it was the perfect capstone to what others would call a very good time at the cinema.

This is going to be a strange film to market, due to its political nature shrouded in comedy, but I wish that other filmmakers had the guts to write, produce and direct films like this on a regular basis.

I'm pretty sure this doesn't hit the streets until April 2006, give or take, so they may fix a bit of the clunkiness in the editing room, but the humor plays well, and the message, if a little over-the-top, is cleverly portrayed from top to bottom. It might be a hard sell, but it's worth checking out, just for the opening sequences alone. I'm interested in seeing a trailer for this film. Personally, if they did flash cuts to "Jesus Walks", ala Jarhead, I think it could be brilliant.

-Constable Kreegal

Huh. Sounds like it aims at some big targets. A film like this can either connect in a major cultural way or fall flat on its face, and sometimes it’s as mercurial as the mood of the country shifting between when it’s filmed and when it’s released. This one sounds funny right now, and with some more time to work on it, who knows how it’ll be when it hits screens in 2006? Thanks, Constable. Nice work.

"Moriarty" out.

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