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American Dreamz     

Posted by Katherine Putnam on February 10th, 2012

“One can become quite detached from reality when one’s famous.”

I like comedies. I like the So-Awkward-They-Make-You-Cringe-And-Hide-Your-Eyes comedies and the Happy-Clappy-Quadruple-Wedding-at-the-End comedies and the Intelligent-Parodies-Are-Possible comedies. I also quite like a well done dark comedy, which is why I was excited to give American Dreamz a chance.

Spoiler alert? I was a bit disappointed.

“Maybe it is time I read newspapers. I’ve learned a lot this morning. It turns out North Korea and Iran are not like Doctor Octopus and Magneto at all.”

“Folks don’t call me the torturer because I *don’t* like to torture people.”

I have several movies in my collection that I bought because they were on sale and I was curious…but not, apparently, curious enough to watch them right away. Such is the case with Paul Weitz’s 2006 comedy starring Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid, and Hugh Grant. It was on sale in a We-Don’t-Want-This-Anymore-So-We’re-Selling-it-for-Beans bin at Blockbuster and I thought, “A comedy that’s decided to point out the fact that more people are aware of what’s going on in a singing competition slash reality show than are aware of who the president is…sounds like fun!”

American Dreamz makes its targets very clear from the very beginning of the film. It’s going to point out the “fakeness” of Hollywood and the rather staged, over produced nature of reality shows. It was made in the middle of the George W era, so of course Dennis Quaid’s president is going to be a semi-obvious mockery of Bush. (Actually, nothing semi about it. It was crystal clear. Frying pan to the face obvious.) And they’re going to throw in as many stereotypes as they can find.

However, for a comedy that should have some bite (just look at what it’s trying to tackle: the difference between talent and ratings, the flawed perception/worldview/mindset/what-have-you that often accompanies fame, the government, consumerism, American intelligence levels, etc), American Dreamz just falls flat for me. There are a few funny moments but for the most part I spent the whole movie wondering how soon it would be over. It wasn’t a train wreck. It was just…weak. It seemed to lack any sort of gusto. The premise gave it plenty of material for dark comedy and scathing satire; instead they decided to hold themselves back to the point that the finished product was a semi-muddled, not-really-light-but-definitely-not-dark comedy. (The term comedy is used lightly, of course.)

Perhaps I’m being harsh. There was nothing incredibly wrong with the film. However, there’s nothing incredibly right about it either. Not to mention that I tend to agree with Liz Lemon: mediocrity is a mortal sin. And this film was definitely mediocre.

Part of my problem is that I couldn’t help but compare American Dreamz to truly great dark comedies like Drop Dead Gorgeous or Fargo (and yes, I own both, so they’ll be appearing once I get to their spot in the alphabet). I couldn’t help but wonder what the Coen brothers would have been able to make of this concept.

I suppose I could drag this out and throw out spoilers as I try to muddle through picking out where I though the movie missed an opportunity or dropped the ball or where a scene just didn’t do anything to move the plot along…but I would just end up repeating the same point over and over again. Repeat repeat beat beat, as Dana says. My point being, if there was never a point in the movie when I thought “that was clever” or “that really forced me to take a look at America’s flaws in a new, more critical light” or “that was a well-paced scene” or “well done [insert actors name], that was a nice touch you added”…then why should I waste your time pointing out each (of the hundreds) of the moments when I was bored, disappointed, or confused?

I suppose that this one-movie-a-week challenge can serve a dual purpose: force me to write, and force me to get rid of the movies I own but don’t actually like. Sayonara, American Dreamz.

NEXT TIME: American Flyers


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