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CRACKED Reviews: American Dreamz

Satirists today are in a tight spot. For some time now, pop culture and politics have been in a neck and neck race to out-self-parody one another, but we still expect them to be skewered, continuously and mercilessly (South Park does it admirably). What could go wrong? Enter American Dreamz, Paul Weitz' new film that takes on a broad array of topics, from terrorism to American
consumerism. But the crux of this flimsy satire is a send-up of both the Bush administration and that almighty stardom factory, American Idol.

Things start off with a back-and-forth tour of the key players. Sally Kendoo (Mandy Moore) is a young cutie from Shit Township, Ohio, and a hopeful on the talent search show American Dreamz. Certain of her impending rise to the top, she breaks it off with her doofus boyfriend (Chris Klein) and hastily begins negotiations with an agent. Next we meet the President's bald Chief of Staff (Willem Dafoe), struggling to fight off rumors of the President' nervous breakdown with the White House press corps. The President- Dennis Quaid doing his best impression of a dopey Texan-certainly is losing it, and has shut himself in the Presidential bedroom. His reclusive nature is the product of a realization that there' no solution to the horrific problems of the world. Approval ratings are dropping and the First Lady attempts to pep up her man with anti-depressants. Unfortunately for Quaid' send-up, watching Bush speak on CNN is just as funny as anything he does here.

Early on, the most entertaining scene is when Omer, a Middle Eastern terrorist living with extended family in the States, sings like a theater school dandy on his cousin' basement stage. When the American Dreamz scouts come looking for his relative who had sent in an audition tape, they find the clueless Omer instead, a perfect fit for the show' desired "Arab type." So he, with Sally and a slew of other starry-eyed future cruise boat singers (don't forget the Orthodox Jew), are chosen to compete in the calculated contest.



Hugh Grant' character, Martin Tweed, is the British producer and host of the program. Weitz deftly paints him a self-loathing celebrity, aware of the monster he' created-probably pretty close to Tweed' real-life counterpart, Simon Cowell. The story comes together when Tweed negotiates a PR deal with the President' advisors to have the head of state judge the final episode of the season. At this point, our pessimistic leader comes out of hiding and seeks any exposure he can get.

The stunt catches the attention of Omer' tent-dwelling jihad buddies back in Afghanistan, and a goofy trio of terrorists approaches Omer with a plan to assassinate the Commander in Chief. Of course the scheme' success is banking on their comrades' ability to make it to the final round with his foppish dance moves and outfits.

Sally, meanwhile, has hopped on the media spin train and agrees to get back together with her ex-beau solely because of his wounded veteran status. Unfortunately, while hopping back and forth between each character's story, we don't really get to know any of them. And because of the wide scope of cultural targets, the satire fails to hit any dead-on. At one point, for example, Tweedy announces one of the show' sponsors: a new, massive SUV with the ironic tagline, "Because you need it." Barbs of this caliber were left out of, say, Bullworth for good reason: they're just too easy.

Weitz aims for a broad, topical satire sprinkled with mostly easy jokes that we can all wrap our minds around. There' nothing too jarring here, but it' got more gravity than the average summer comedy. Ultimately, if you're in the mood for truly biting satire, save your money and catch a few episodes of South Park.
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