A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
"American Dreamz" is a comedy, not a satire. We have that on the authority of its writer-director, Paul Weitz, who told Variety: "Satire is what closes on Saturday night. So it's a comedy." Actually, it's a satire. Its comedy is only fairly funny, but its satire is mean, tending toward vicious. The movie is more slapdash than smooth, more impulsive than calculating, and it takes cheap shots. I responded to its savage, sloppy zeal.
The movie has two targets, "American Idol" and President Bush, not in that order. As it opens, a TV producer and star named Martin Tweed (Hugh Grant) is planning the new season of his hit show. On camera, he's Simon Cowell. Off camera, he's Machiavelli, scheming for contestants who get the highest ratings. The season will end in a three-way contest between a Hasidic Jew rapper (Adam Busch), a corn-fed Ohio blond (Mandy Moore) and a theater buff from Iraq (Sam Golzari), who is secretly a terrorist.
Meanwhile, in the White House, President Staton (Dennis Quaid) awakens after his re-election victory and has an impulse: "I'm gonna read the newspaper!" He asks for the New York Times. "We can get one," an aide assures him uncertainly. He finds the paper instructive. "Did you know there are three kind of Iraqistans?" he asks his chief of staff (Willem Dafoe), who looks uncannily like Dick Cheney. Surrounding himself with books and even the left-wing Guardian from England, the president isn't seen in public for weeks. "There is a lot of interesting things in the paper!" he marvels.
The plot chugs forward on two fronts. On the TV program, we see Sally Kendoo (Moore) playing the role of a screamingly delirious young contestant, pushed by her mother (Jennifer Coolidge) and superagent (Seth Meyers) and dumping her boyfriend (Chris Klein) because he's going nowhere and she's going up-up-up. As the godlike "American Dreamz" producer and judge, Hugh Grant does what he's curiously good at, playing an enormously likable SOB.