American Dreamz is a multi-layered comedy that satires American politics, talent search shows and the way in which the media moulds and represents its talent through clever marketing and manipulation. The film is effective in achieving this and laughs can be found aplenty, but on occasion it feels like the story drags on.
At the onset we meet Martin Tweed (Hugh Grant), the self-obsessed host of America’s most popular talent search show American Dreamz. The ratings for his show have hit the roof and he is now on the search for next season’s talent.
Across his searches, he finds Sally Kendoo (Mandy Moore), a karaoke star who may just be America’s answer to finding the next Britney Spears. Sally dumps her love interest William Williams (Chris Klein) on the finding out of her opportunity to sing on American Dreamz, where William then joins the army out of the pain of losing his one true love.
At the top of the state, President Staton (Dennis Quaid) has just been re-elected and to our surprise, we find out that he has rarely or never read a newspaper. Staton decides to hole himself up and back track on years of reading that he has missed. To the concern of his wife and his Chief of Staff (Willem DaFoe, who characteristically represents a Cheney-like character), President Staton is offered a special judging role on the American Dreamz finale in an effort to get him out of his room and back into the public eye.
Across the globe, the clumsy, show-tune singing, terrorist-in-training Omer (Sam Golzari) is sent to America by his camp to be rid of him, but after accidentally being discovered by American Dreamz’ talent scouts, he is given the ultimatum to make it to the finals where he would become a martyr and in the process destroy the President on national television.
The film’s laughs come from the obvious parodies of each of its characters and their personalities. For instance, the President here is portrayed particularly like a puppet on a string, where his Chief of Staff tells him what to say word-for-word through a mini-receiver. Omer is particularly reluctant as a suicide bomber and portrays a more humane side compared to each of the films other characters.
The acting from Grant, Moore and Golzari are superb in their respective roles. Grant plays his self-absorbed character trying to fight his inner self splendidly and in retrospect, Moore’s win-at-all costs character Sally does well to complement Grant’s Tweed. By far the most out-standing performance would have to go to new-comer Golzari who plays Omer. Golzari is perfect as the terrorist wannabe turned reality TV star. The audience is made most to feel for his character who has to decide whether he will follow through with his camp’s obligations or let his conscience get the better of him and possibly become a star of American Dreamz.
The film tries to put these multiple storylines together in a coherent fashion, all the while sending messages about the state of American politics and the fascination of the public with reality TV shows, and the way in which the media purports stories to further their ratings for economic value. At times the film loses the attention of the audience, but this is made up for with quirky comedy and a wholesome good feeling after the film is finished, even after the bizarre ending.
Writer/director Paul Weitz claims that he wrote the original draft of the American Dreamz (2006) script before he had ever watched an episode of American Idol (2002).