American Dreamz looked destined to not make a debut on the big screen, but directly onto the local DVD/VCD racks, until the recent opening of GV VivoCity allowed for it to be screened exclusively there. After all, they got 15 screens to fill. And I thought why not catch it on the big screen instead?
At first glance, it truly looked like the big screen adapted version of the wildly popular reality tv series American Idol, with a similar "singing talent" competition featured throughout the movie, sharing the same title. Writer-Director Paul Weitz had actually weaved a cunning parody and satire about the modern day US politics, domestic and foreign affairs all rolled into one. The obsession with reality shows, the ignorance of the most powerful man in the world, the determination of those wanting to wreck havoc in truth, justice and the American way.
There are plenty of spot-who moments in the movie, with characters veiled so lightly with reference to their real life counterparts. Hugh Grant's American Dreamz head honcho Martin Tweed is Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul combined, with a not too subtle jab at the latter's alleged romance with one of the Idol's contestants. Dennis Quaid stars as US President Staton, who just won the re-election, and is absolutely clueless on everything outside his daily presidential briefs. At certain angles, he does look like Bush, and is religious, and has his strings pulled by his Chief of Staff, played by Willem Dafoe, who in actual fact, is a dead ringer for US Vice President Dick Cheney with his receding white hairline, and being the puppeteer.
There are multiple arcs in the movie, with views from the Oval office, from Mandy Moore's conniving, scheming, win-all-at-all-costs manipulator Sally Kendoo, and even the war on terrorism gets featured here. Sam Golzari stars as Omer Obeidi, a blundering terrorist in training in Afghanistan, sent to the US to lie low until activated by a sleeper cell. With a stroke of (mis)fortune, Omer gets selected to appear in American Dreamz, and sets in motion plans by his brothers-in-arms waiting to make a strike on the Americans. The US army is not spared too, albeit featured briefly.
While the movie certainly does take the mickey out of American Idol and current affairs, it does have a serious, encouraging message to put forth. In the movie, there are many characters who are doing things that others want, and not doing something they truly want for themselves. The President not being able to spend his time the way he wants to, Omer being coerced by obligation to the brothers of his faith to martyr himself just as he tasted and got into the swing of things which are "decadent", and Tweed being led by fame and money to continue a wildly popular show he now loathed.
There are a number of supporting acts from other comedies in this movie, like Jennifer Coolidge (the infamous Stifler's Mom in American Pie), Chris Klein (the Keanu Reeves clone, also an American Pie alumni) in the role of a lovelorn Iraqi War veteran, the Riza family, as well as John Cho from Harold and Kumar.
So if you have the time, and not willing to fork out cash for a disc you may not want to keep, then give this a watch on the big screen, currently only showing at GV Vivocity.