Published Feb 19, 2007This 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 hes a terrorist. Throw in a dim president (Dennis Quaid) whos tired of being controlled by his Cheney-esque handler (Willem Dafoe) and you have the makings of nothing much. Writer-director Paul Weitzs 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 wouldnt have taken much to make this sharp and lacerating but Weitz lacks the killer instinct or a firm grasp of the issues, but hes 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 its 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 theyre 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.