Directed by Paul Weitz. Starring Hugh Grant, Dennis Quaid, Mandy Moore, Marcia Gay Harden, Willem Dafoe, Chris Klein, Jennifer Coolidge. (2006, PG-13, 107 min.)
REVIEWED By Marrit Ingman, Fri., April 21, 2006
Weitz Brothers, Weitz Brothers, Weitz Brothers. Paul and Chris, you did your thing, dawgs. You made it to Hollywood (Chuck & Buck), you made your money (American Pie), made some art (About a Boy), and then you got back into the indie thing (you produced Bickford Schmeckler’s Cool Ideas. which screened at SXSW, and I totally pimped that). That’s a real interesting progression, but then you cut the brotherly cord, leaving Paul to make In Good Company and American Dreamz on his own. And tonight I just wasn’t feeling it. I think you’re both still in it to win this thing, and I wanna see what you do in the future, but American Dreamz is kind of all over the place from the beginning. You have a guy like Simon Cowell (Grant), and he’s really good at doing that one particular thing. You’re telling us television executives are heartless and manipulative, and that’s kind of edgy, but it’s also kind of just, like, “Hey, Hugh Grant is being like Simon.” And I think we all agree at this stage in American culture that television executives are heartless and manipulative, so you’re going to have to really nail it, man. We’ve heard it before. We know what to expect when the best karaoke singer in Padookie, Ohio (Moore) gets her heart set on becoming a TV pop star. That whole part of the movie was not that tight, and you took way too long in getting to the contest. But hold up, I’m not done. You started pulling it together when you stepped up the part where Dennis Quaid plays the president of the United States – the current one. He’s called Staton, but it’s G.W., and Marcia Gay Harden is tight as Laura. When you needed somebody to satirize Texans, you called in Texans, and I appreciate that. Without the ear transmitter broadcasting from his chief advisor (Dafoe in his most terrifying role ever), the president can’t keep that constipated smirk off his face. That’s what your movie is really about, dawg. It’s not about the vapidity of popular culture; it’s about the country-fried jackass at the helm of our nation. You were thisclose. But you’re driving around with Hugh Grant and Mandy Moore in a Ferrari too much. Your satire could have been a lot more balls-out. You’re telling me straight out George W. Bush is a likable chump who would be sensible enough to be horrified if he actually read a newspaper, and you’re giving me one of the cinema’s most seething villains as Karl Rove. That’s a pretty big thing to say, and you could have really brought your game. But you did the crossover thing. You’re working on youth appeal as the creators of American Pie. We all know Idol sucks. Maybe America will prove me wrong by voting, but I felt like you were holding back until the end. And I think if the kids like you, that’ll be okay. You’re showing them something more than Jessica Alba’s humps. Your song choices (by Stephen Trask) were good. Your cast was good. It was pretty okay, but you’ve set the bar higher on this competition.