A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this satire pokes fun at President Bush, American Idol, and Western fears of terrorism (the would-be presidential assassins here are "Arabic" and comic). The film makes the TV show and the presidential administration look equally dishonest. A character cheats on her fiancé. Characters make fun of "white trash." Terrorists carry and fire guns, and plan a suicide bombing; one terrorist says he enjoys torturing people; another character blows himself up to protest his girlfriend's betrayal (you don't see explosion or deaths). In Iraq, a character is barely shot (grazed) and sent home on his first day. Characters drink beer and wine, and the First Lady takes pills for depression.
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What's the story?
With two intersecting plots, the satire AMERICAN DREAMZ takes aim at two national icons -- President Bush and American Idol. Sally (Mandy Moore) is an aspiring singer who breaks up with boyfriend William (Chris Klein) to pursue her career. She gets a spot on American Dreamz, hosted by snooty Martin Tweed (Hugh Grant), who likes his paycheck and the chance to bed contestants, but otherwise appears to despise everything about his job. Meanwhile, President Staton (Dennis Quaid) has a breakdown following his reelection. His Chief of Staff (Willem Dafoe) decides that the best PR tactic is to have him appear as a guest judge on American Dreamz. The announcement inspires terrorists to plan a suicide bombing on the show. Terrorist agent Omer (Sam Golzari) is packed off to the U.S. to live with relatives in Beverly Hills, including his American Dreamz-aspiring, completely charismatic cousin, Iqbal (Tony Yalda). Omer is wired with an explosive for the suicide mission, but he ultimately denies the wishes of his cohorts. When Iqbal's own efforts to get on the show fail, he agrees to coach Omer. Omer generates remarkable sympathy and fandom on the show (inspiring "Omermania"). Eventually the plots converge on the television set.
Is it any good?
American Dreamz skewers President Bush and American Idol in order to make obvious points: game shows are rigged, the President is clueless, and the most powerful man in the U.S. is Simon Cowell.
The movie offers uninteresting jokes about contestants (essentially, providing imitations of previous American Idol contestants, from Fantasia to Kelly to Clay, whose appearances make you re-realize the originals are already self-parodies). Indeed. While the movie presumes its easy targets are "bad," its parodies aren't very clever either. And so the entire exercise seems more redundant than inspired.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the function of satire. How can making fun of something provide critique or even suggest ways to change? How do this movie's particular parodies touch on broader themes, such as corruption, commercialism, cynicism? Does it matter that American Idol might be fixed, if it is designed to be entertainment?
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