Director: Paul Weitz
Paul Weitz has proven over the past few years that he’s capable of more mature and much higher quality filmmaking than the American Pie series that launched his career. Along with his brother Chris, the Weitz brothers have released the wonderful adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel About a Boy and showed us the struggles faced by the middle aged worker in today’s concrete jungle with In Good Company. However with his most recent work, Paul has created his sharpest and riskiest film yet with this clever satire on pop culture, reality television, our current government, and the war on terror in his film American Dreamz. Hugh Grant is dead-on in his most humorously devious and self-centered portrayal since playing Renee Zellwegger’s gleeful cad of a boss in Bridget Jones’s Diary. This time around, he stars as Martin Tweed (nicknamed Tweedy), a Simon Cowell-like host of an American Idol styled reality show. Mandy Moore plays a spoof on her former pop princess persona as the favored candidate Sally Kendoo who isn’t above using the boyfriend she no longer loves (Chris Klein) in order to exploit his injury from the Iraq war and help her chances at winning. Taken under Martin’s wing, Sally is groomed for success by the master of manipulation himself and sensing a like-minded soul, the two immediately hit it off and their scenes together are stingingly hilarious. Scene stealing Sam Golzari is wonderful as Omer, a clumsy, reluctant member of a sleeper cell terror group who’s kicked out of training for ruining their homemade movies with his continuous blunders and sent to live with relatives in Los Angeles. However, when the producers of American Dreamz overhear him belting away show tunes in the basement, he becomes the unlikely underdog contestant on the show and his old terrorist associates arrive to try and exploit his newfound celebrity status. Added to the mix is an amazingly tongue-in-cheek portrayal by Dennis Quaid, playing the film’s recently reelected President (with many allusions and similarities to our current leader). Quaid goes into a depressive funk after realizing that he may not be getting the “straight poop” from dumbed down briefings prepared by his right-hand-man Willem Dafoe that compare important events to cartoon characters and begins turning instead to newspaper and book research of his own. Of course, he has a mini-breakdown when faced with the actual status of our world and after being given a few “happy pills” and an earpiece to Dafoe's soundbytes, he starts regaining in popularity, agreeing to guest judge the final episode of American Dreamz where, obviously, all of the intersecting stories collide. The film is a funny and highly daring satirical work that must have been a tough sell to Hollywood as Weitz ended up casting a few of the actors with whom he’d previously worked like Grant, Quaid and Klein. Above all, while the film will definitely appeal to those interested in politics and current events, the real revelation of the pictures is the winningly charismatic Sam Golzari—chances are you’ll be rewinding his numbers for a second look or maybe even downloading them from iTunes.