American Dreamz is the biggest show in America. In fact, so popular is the talent show that the President (Quaid) is to be a judge on its grand final, and a terrorist (Sam Golzari) is cajoled into using it as an opportunity to assassinate him.
Nobody seems to have been taking any notice of Paul Weitz’s growth into a highly talented director. Everyone remembers American Pie as a gross-out comedy of dessert-humping and unsanitary flute useage, but it had something few films of its ilk have: a heart. Weitz has shown the same skill for subtle human emotion in the midst of broad comedy with About A Boy and the hugely underrated In Good Company.
Sadly, though, American Dreamz lacks his greatest asset. In his enthusiasm to skewer politics and culture, Weitz has lost sight of where his talent lies. His targets are easy, but he puts so much focus on attacking them that he short-changes the people in his story and is left with a slightly hollow experience. That’s not to say he doesn’t have some very sly points to make. The suggestion that TV has become a more powerful political force than politicians themselves is well made, with Hugh Grant’s pompous Simon Cowell-alike lording it over Dennis Quaid’s daffy President. Yet it’s diluted by farce, with silly coincidences making the satire feel more gummy than biting.
For all its misguided qualities, the movie is at least perfectly cast. Grant is charmingly reprehensible and Mandy Moore is delightful as a bitch in angel’s clothing. It’s the cast’s collective spiky chemistry that maintains the film’s energy, even as it becomes tangled in its own perceived cleverness and a last-minute need for a little flag-waving.
A misstep for Weitz, whos better with emotion than venom, but still shows flashes of his knack for comic subtlety.