Click here to listen to the interview with Paul Weitz (8:04)
Click here to listen to the interview with Paul and Chris Weitz for ABOUT A BOY (20:36)
AMERICAN DREAMZ did not perform as well as it should have when it was released. Perhaps it cut too close to the bone as it turned reality television inside out, making devotees of the genre too uncomfortable to enjoy the mordant wit in play here. Perhaps it was the way it laid bare some theories about who really runs the government that made others queasy. Perhaps its dissection of family dynamics rang a little too true. Whatever the reason, now that it’s out on DVD, it’s time for everyone to take a well-deserved second look.
Writer/director Paul Weitz begins his audio commentary for AMERICAN DREAMZ by wrestling with the meaning of an audio commentary and then pondering if it’s a good thing for a director to do. He then comes to terms with that and then turns to the arc of his film career before sharing such classic commentary highlights as insights into how the actors work, how they helped get the film made in the first place, and the metaphorical implications of a chicken wing. He also swears that the president in the film isn’t George W. Bush, despite certain nagging correspondences. That’s typical of the sort of smart, irreverent films he makes, and of AMERICAN DREAMZ in particular. It’s a film that skewers pretty much everything popular culture has to offer, including the media-ization of politics while lampooning terrorists, all with a finely honed sense of the absurd that is the perfect counterbalance to the how dark the world can be at times. Joining him on the commentary track for some piquant insights and one-liners is Sam Golzari, who plays Omer, the show tune-loving would-be terrorist who gets just as sucked into the American idea of success, i.e. the eponymous television phenomenon, AMERICAN DREAMZ, than any native-born American could home to be.
Other bonuses include deleted scenes with television spots advertising the show, and Sam’s first visit to the local mall with his fully assimilated relatives. The best, though, is a classic between Dennis Quaid and Marcia Gay Hardin as the dim-bulb figurehead of a president and his loving supportive spouse who explains, as gently as she can, how his role as live-action puppet for the powers that be is pretty much the same as hers as an old-school political wife whose only job is to look pretty, smile, and keep her mouth shut. The depression he’s suddenly feeling, she assures him, will pass. Eventually.
As choreographer Jennifer Li points out, there’s a whole new twist to “The Impossible Dream” when it’s sung by Omer, the film’s terrorist-in-waiting. Her job, though, was to create the stunningly awful, impossible to not watch, dance routines for his performances on the television show. The featurette with her, Dance Dreamz, is the anatomy of this unlikely blend of jazz, hip-hop, bubblegum, and timing that is just not right in any way shape or form, and spotlights Li as the unsung heroine of the piece. Yet it’s not without its wistful moments, especially when Golzari, after watching the playback of his performance of the ci-mentioned song, admits that he had believed that he was more than fly out there busting the moves.
AMERICAN DREAMZ, film and DVD, takes no prisoners when it comes to making a statement. Smart, pointed, yet fearlessly silly, it might just shift a few paradigms.
Click here for the full review of AMERICAN DREAMZ.