A review of “American Dreamz” by Jeanne Aufmuth


Stars: **

Rating: PG-13 for language and mature themes

Run Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes



American Idol fans rejoice. The reality-based songfest gets the melodramatic once-over in this wildly flailing spoof that takes comedy to inexplicable heights.

Hugh Grant puts a sleazy spin on his spiteful Martin Tweed, the Simon Cowell-esque voice of judgment presiding over a madcap array of contestant hopefuls whose clashing backgrounds spell ratings bonanza.

Tweed oversees his quasi-talented pets with false sincerity; praying for on-air altercations and obsessive audience allegiance. From Midwest sweetheart Sally Kendoo (Mandy Moore) whose discarded boy-toy has abruptly enlisted to an Iraqi native (Sam Golzari as Omer) in love with Broadway show tunes and a Hassidic homeboy who raps a mean couplet fireworks fly on the wings of errant notes and trodden dreams.

Sally and Tweed dance around a sordid romance while tangential threads dangle tantalizingly close to consequence. Turns out Omer is a closet terrorist, placing “Dreamz” squarely in serio-comic territory that fishes for cheap laughs and doesn’t get them. Uber-buffoonish President Staton (played to current administration type by Dennis Quaid) as a guest judge facing off against the rabid Middle Easterner is an obvious target, leaving nothing to work for.

Thank goodness for Grant who offers up enough base perversion to keep him in the game, his consistently dry wit raising the bar of integrity a notch or two. The desperate quest for fame gets the sharpest treatment, borne of an amusing lack of poise and self-respect.

This is the part where I admit that I haven’t missed a single episode of “American Idol”, not one in five seasons. In addition to an enduring hunger for vapid pop-culture I expect a lot from writer/director Paul Weitz who has crafted such subtle comic classics as “In Good Company” and “About a Boy”. Weitz simply doesn’t deliver here; forsaking intelligent humor for a broad-based lampoon that envelops too much material and tries far too hard to please. Definitely not the stuff of dreamz.