American Dreamz Paul Weitz

This is the satire that the American culture industry deserves, not the one we deserve — that one would actually be good, with on-point analysis and a round of harsh mockery for the usual suspects. But this exercise in soft liberal cant is the kind of punishment the industry should be tied to a chair and forced to watch to warn them of how low they can sink. Hugh Grant plays the acid host of an American Idol-style show that is twice as tacky and just as popular. His chief contestants are ultra-ambitious cynic Mandy Moore and American-billeted Arab Sam Golzari, whose biggest secret is that he’s a terrorist. Throw in a dim president (Dennis Quaid) who’s tired of being controlled by his Cheney-esque handler (Willem Dafoe) and you have the makings of… nothing much. Writer-director Paul Weitz’s caricatures range from the obvious (American culture — corrupt!) to the toothless (American president — merely misinformed!) to the plain crazy (Arab terrorist — addicted to show tunes!). It wouldn’t have taken much to make this sharp and lacerating but Weitz lacks the killer instinct or a firm grasp of the issues, but he’s only marginally better informed by his Bush stand-in, who only realises his puppet nature well into his second term. I might have forgiven this if the film were at all funny but it’s not; the timing is way off and the lines are like a Democratic mixer after a few drinks. Mostly, American Dreamz is a dispiriting reminder that American pop simply will not go after hard issues unless they’re dumbed down beyond recognition. Extras include a self-serious feature commentary with Weitz, a lame featurette with Mandy Moore in character, a second forgettable clip about the dancing and 13 deleted scenes.