Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mr. President Goes to Hollywood; 'American Dreamz' Combines Politics and Pop Culture in One, Semisweet Satire

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mr. President Goes to Hollywood; 'American Dreamz' Combines Politics and Pop Culture in One, Semisweet Satire

Article excerpt

Byline: MATT SOERGEL

American Dreamz is an odd satire -- cynical yet big-hearted, often tasteless but also kind of squishy-nice. A farcical collision of pop-culture and politics, it shouldn't work, and it won't work for everyone. It'll be too mean for some, not nearly mean enough for others.

But filmmaker Paul Weitz (American Pie) does provide for some smart, good laughs here -- and, boy, does Dennis Quaid makes for an amusing George W. Bush.

OK, his name is not Bush. But he's clearly modeled after the president, from his cowboy boots all the way to his addled vocabulary. And just off a bruising re-election campaign, he's tired and just wants to sit in bed. Now he asks his butler if he can have some newspapers to read.

It's an odd request -- the president apparently hasn't done that before. But soon he's immersed in all the interesting stuff he's discovering, including the fact that there are apparently three kinds of "Iraqistanis."

His wife (Marcia Gay Harden) offers him some of her "happy pills." And his manipulative chief of staff, Wally (Willem Dafoe), who has Dick Cheney's haircut and Karl Rove's influence, is worried: "Are you getting toasted again?"

But it gets worse. Soon the president's even reading the Canadian papers, as if we care about what Canadians say! He's having doubts about himself and the job he's doing. And he doesn't even want to go out in public.

So with the poll numbers plummeting, Wally makes the president a judge on the season finale of American Dreamz, a hugely popular TV show that looks an awfully lot like American Idol. It even has the loathsome but charming British judge, Martin Tweed (Hugh Grant), who compares one contestant to "a musical Ebola virus."

Farce requires colliding comic scenarios, and Weitz smashes several together as his film moves toward that American Dreamz showdown.

You see, also on the show will be Sally Kendoo (the consistently hilarious Mandy Moore), a ruthlessly competitive diva from Padookie, Ohio. …

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