Dream Parody Therapy

 

American Dreamz (2006) Review 5
Director:Paul Weitz,
Starring:Hugh Grant, Dennis Quaid, Mandy Moore, Marcia Gay Harden, Chris Klein, Willem Dafoe, and Sam Golzari
Length:107 minutes
Rated:PG-13

 

 

There is really no such thing as “gentle parody.” Parody is hate speech. You see something you can’t stand and you make fun of it, that’s what comedians have been doing for centuries and why so many have died in the process.

“American Dreamz” is a full blown attack on western culture by one of the it’s most egregious perpetrators. The co-creator of “American Pie” is basically biting the hand that feeds him, but to what point?

Make money?

I say “western” instead of “American” culture because “American Idol” and celebrity culture in general aren’t American inventions. Simon Cowell is British, and the Eurovision song contest, on which the original “Pop Idol” is based, has been going on for the better part of a half-century. Everybody else has been doing this sort of thing as long, if not longer than we have. But Weitz would have us believe, like much of Hollywood, that this is something that is uniquely American and evil.

The Simon Cowell parody in “Dreamz” is named Martin Tweed (Hugh Grant), and when we meet him, his latest girlfriend is telling him she’s leaving and he replies that this is a wonderful idea and then explains why in detail.

Tweedy clearly loathes himself, but he’s going on anyway because he has a lavish lifestyle to finance and the search for the next season’s contestants begins.

Meanwhile at an Al-Qaeda training camp somewhere in south Central Asia the poorest terrorist in training, Omer (Sam Golzeri), is unathletic making him bad at terrorism, and even worse, he loves old show tunes. So, because he’s the cousin of one of the top bad guys, he’s sent to California to join a sleeper cell and wait for further instructions.

Now, Omer is the only actual human being in the entire film, and it’s through his eyes that we experience Weitz’ critique of how horrible Americans are. Omer’s relations are cartoon characters. His Aunt (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and Uncle (Jay Harik) are rich and mindless, while their kids (Noureen Dewulf and Tony Yalda) are so thoroughly Americanized that they have lost any ethnic identity at all. Clearly Weitz finds this disconcerting. I guess that’s why he’s decided to have the son, Iqbal (Yalda), be a closet queen who becomes Omar’s trainer when he gets on the show.

As to the other contestants, the Israeli cantor (Adam Busch) is such a caricature as to be almost anti-Semitic, and might be considered so had not everyone else been treated even worse. This is an equal opportunity parody after all.

The WASPs get it pretty bad too. Bright and perky Sally Kendoo (Mandy Moore), her mom (Jennifer Coolidge) are portrayed as crass and mean spirited, throwing out her loving boyfriend William Williams (Chris Klein), as soon has the mere whiff of fame is smelt.

Then there’s President Bush…um…Staton (Dennis Quaid). Sure W’s an easy target, as are Laura Bush (Marcia Gay Harden) and Dick Cheney (Willem Defoe). But while the start of the arc seems interesting, the whole thing quickly falls flat. The performances aren’t cartoony enough, although I did like the terror cell that wants Omar to blow the President.

The film isn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. Most of the jokes work. There is just enough pathos here to make this more than just is a really mean-spirited propaganda rant.