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Film / American Dreamz

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American Dreamz is a 2006 comedy/parody film directed/produced/written by Paul Weitz.

On the morning after his re-election, US President Joseph Staton (Dennis Quaid) decides to read the newspaper for the first time in four years. This starts him down a slippery slope. He begins reading obsessively, reexamining his "black-and-white" view of the world in a more "gray-seeming" way, and holing up in his bedroom in his pajamas. Frightened by the President's apparent nervous breakdown, his Chief of Staff (Willem Dafoe) pushes him back into the spotlight, booking him as a guest judge on the President's favorite television show.

America cannot seem to get enough of the show in question, American Dreamz, a weekly talent show and television ratings juggernaut hosted by self-aggrandizing, self-loathing Martin Tweed (Hugh Grant), ever on the lookout for the next instant celebrity. The finalists for the season include young Midwestern girl Sally Kendoo (Mandy Moore), and showtunes-loving young man Omer Obeidi (Sam Golzari).

Sally is actually a conniving woman who dumped her devoted but dopey boyfriend William Williams (Chris Klein) because she believed that her life would've gone nowhere if she still had him for a boyfriend and that he'd only drag her down. This drove William to join the army, only to be wounded in Iraq and sent back to the U.S. However, for the purpose of the show and at the insistence of her agent, Sally has to pretend that she still loves William.

Omer, meanwhile, is actually a member of a group of jihadists; he was an actor in an instruction film for terrorists, but he was too clumsy, and his interest in show tunes was frowned upon. Therefore, he was sent to the U.S. to await further instructions, but the leaders expected they could not use him. He moved to Southern California to live with his extended family there, including his effeminate cousin Iqbal, who hoped to be selected to participate in American Dreamz, but in a misunderstanding, Omer was selected instead. Iqbal becomes angered by this at first but later agrees to help Omer win and makes himself his manager. Omer's terrorist organization now sees an opportunity: Omer is instructed to make it to the finale, and kill the President in a suicide attack. He succeeds in getting to the finale, making it a potentially explosive one in more ways than one.

This film contains examples of:

  • Adam Westing: Mandy Moore, at the time best known as a wholesome late '90s/early '00s Teen Idol, playing a fame-hungry Bitch in Sheep's Clothing contestant on a Reality TV singing competition.
  • American Title: Of the subversive variety; American Dreamz satirizes both popular entertainment in the form of a TV show similar to American Idol and American politics.
  • Before I Change My Mind: Iqbal had hoped to get on the title talent show, but Omer was chosen instead. Iqbal becomes Omer's manager, but he's bitter about not being on the show. So when Iqbal is watching Omer rehearse:
    Iqbal Riza: Oh there's no way you're going to win this thing.
    Omer: I know, I fear as much.
    Iqbal Riza: [sighs and looks him up and down, then takes Omer to his stage] Get up there, up on the stage.
    Omer: Are you sure?
    Iqbal Riza: Do it! Before I change my mind. [he then gives Omer advice on improving his performance]
  • Clueless Boss: The US President is a nice, well-meaning guy who is utterly clueless about his Chief of Staff's machinations.
  • Everyone Has Standards: After Sally and Martin end up having sex, he asks her if she doesn't feel dirty (as she's cheating on her boyfriend William with him). When she nonchalantly says no, Martin, who up until then was shown to be quite a jerk, gives a pause as if saying "...Wow."
  • Karma Houdini: Sally is shown to be a quite unsympathetic character through the course of the film: She dumps her boyfriend William because she believed that her life would've gone nowhere if she still had him for a boyfriend and that he'd only drag her down, only to pretend to reconcile with him for the purpose of the show and at the insistence of her agent, cheats on him with Martin on the night he was going to propose to her, and overall makes it clear that she will stop at nothing at achieving celebrity. In the end, not only she becomes a "keeper of the flame" of sort of William's memory after he dies in the explosion, but she also becomes the new host of American Dreamz after Martin's death in the same explosion. It says something that Omer, a would-be jihadist suicide bomber, at least is shown changing his mind at the end and informing the authorities about the terrorist plot.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The Torturer, who's Exactly What It Says on the Tin; Omer's jihadist group's Torture Technician. Lampshaded by himself:
    The Torturer: I'm not called the Torturer because I don't torture people.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Joseph Staton being a barely functional Texan president whose dad had been president and who "decided" to run because people told him to is obviously a parody of George W. Bush, with his wife being beatifically gentle and tolerant a parody of Bush's wife Laura Bush, and the scheming bald of a puppetmaster that is the Chief of Staff a parody of Bush's Vice-President Dick Cheney.
    • Martin Tweed, the boorish British host of the singing competition American Dreamz, clearly recalls Simon Cowell, the boorish British judge of the singing competition American Idol.
  • Not So Above It All: Omer's superiors in the terrorist organization end up as moved by his singing as the rest of show's audience.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: President Joseph Staton is both a President Buffoon and a President Focus Group, but with a twist — the plot involves him deciding to actually learn about world politics so that he can make some decisions for himself, much to the dismay of his Chief of Staff.
  • Repetitive Name: William's last name turns out to be Williams.
  • Show Within a Show: American Dreamz is a singing competition within the movie akin to American Idol.
  • Suicide Attack: Omer's terrorist organization instructs him to kill the U.S. President in a suicide attack while he attends American Dreamz. Omer agrees, but changes his mind and disposes of the bomb in the trash can. William ends up indirectly taking his mantle after finding the bomb.
  • Take a Third Option: The finalists of American Dreamz were Sally and Omer. After William's impromptu song (and fiery death), he was voted the surprise winner of American Dreamz.
  • Throwing Out the Script: President Staton ditches off the earpiece by which his Chief of Staff was feeding him his lines at the finale of American Dreamz, but although it's shown that he was getting fed up with the Chief of Staff being a stickler to the prepared speech, it's actually because the earpiece was giving too much feedback (a group of people with walkie talkies ended up standing behind the Chief of Staff).
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Martin decides to pull a The Show Must Go On by manning a camera after the audience evacuates after William comes out on stage with the bomb and threatens to detonate it. William starts singing, and as reaches the end of the song, he detonates the bomb by walking into the camera and pressing the bomb's detonator with the lens, killing both himself and Martin.
    • To a certain extent, William. Sure, he brought the bomb with the intention of detonating it, but if his expression when it went off was anything to go by, he seemingly forgot that, when you have device that has a big red button at chest height, getting close to a camera that has its lens at chest height may accidentally press said big red button.
  • Try Not to Die: A fresh recruit in Iraq asks the more experienced soldier riding next to him in a jeep for any tips. The tip he receives is "Don't get shot". The troop commits this to memory, and a bullet promptly comes through the side of the jeep and wounds him.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The epilogue reveals what each of the characters went on to do after the end of the last season of American Dreamz: Omer's superiors went to jail, Omer himself went on to become a successful star of his own Broadway revue, where he is shown performing a scene from the musical Grease with Iqbal as his manager; the President makes his wife his new Chief of Staff; and Sally Kendoo becomes the new host of American Dreamz.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: American Dreamz. Parodied when Sally at one point sings a ridiculously vapid ballad with the chorus, "American Dreamz... dreamz... with a Z."