Monday, October 15, 2007

American Dreamz

This flick stars Mandy More and Hugh Grant. It parodies a handful of current trends, namely President Bush, American Idol, and Middle Eastern Terrorism.

The tone is mixed, or maybe just moderated. Making humor from the subject of terrorism is an edgy idea, but this movie manages to do it in a light manner. Making fun of President Bush is one of those things we pretend is edgy, even though everybody does it. It's one of those modern myths we've all decided to go along with, like the idea that the generation before us was backward, naive and prudish, regardless of any evidence to the contrary.

Mandy More plays Kendoo (there are a lot of punny names). She comes from Padookie, Ohio. That's a rif on Paducah, Kentucky, I reckon. Maybe it's dumb, but I'm sensitive about people from the coasts making fun of rural America. Sure, it's supposed to be funny, but I always suspect they mean it. It's not like King of the Hill, which pokes fun at its South Texas characters, but genuinely likes them at the same time. King of the Hill is like when you give your friends a hard time, or tell embarassing stories about family members you love. Conversely, most movies that tap this vein of humor are like the hateful little shits who made fun of you in jr. high for wearing the wrong brand of jeans.

There's a lot of biting satire that could be made on the whole "war on terror", Iraq, freedom vs. security, Bush, and the all sociopolitical malarkey that's been overflowing the septic tank of American life since late in 2001. This movie doesn't make it. It scrapes out a few Bush-is-dumb and Cheney-is-an-evil-puppet-master gags, but it doesn't dive deep for the surprising stuff.

I'm being dismissive, but I enjoyed this movie. What I'm grousing about isn't that it's bad, but that it isn't a biting satire that points out things in our current public life that really piss me off and that I think deserve a good mocking. That, however, is not the movie's fault.

Moore's character has a tragic fate. (Her boyfriend dies, but he's just a plot device, and the Cheney analog is rejected, but he's not sympathetic.) She gets fame and fortune, but it's clear that she isn't happy, and she knows she never will be. Yes, she is fake, and so we might feel she is getting her just desserts, but we also know that she's aware of her fakeness, and that she uses it to ward against a painful world. We can blame her for that, i supose, but we can't get satisfactorily self righteous about it. That's a respectable accomplishment in storytelling.