Mandy Moore, Hugh Grant, Dennis Quaid, Chris Klein, Willem Dafoe, and Sam Golzari star in a film directed by Paul Weitz.
Reviewed by Molly Freedenber
American Dreamz doesn’t even pretend to be about something other than President George W. Bush and his chief of staff (Dennis Quaid plays the puppet president with Willem Dafoe as the silent mastermind), our involvement in Iraq (Sam Golzari’s character’s mom was killed in Baghdad), and American Idol (the only thing missing is the aging, bulimic, former pop star judge). And it doesn’t have to. The writing and acting are so spot-on that it doesn’t seem to matter whether the film is a spoof, a satire, a parody, or just a bit of really timely serendipity.
The story centers around the jaded host of a TV talent show, the manipulative teen from Ohio who will do anything to win the show, the Middle Eastern would-be terrorist who’s up against her, and the depressed president who guest hosts the show as a publicity stunt. The plot is so contrived that it wouldn’t have worked if it weren’t so damn funny.
But the real highlight here is Mandy Moore, who draws on the same tactics she used in Saved to play Sally Kendoo with just the right balance of camp and sympathy. Though Moore may channel both Britney “with-one-‘t’” Spears and Kelly “first-American-Idol” Clarkson in her role as a TV talent show contestant, she once again proves that she is more talented, substantive, and enduring than either of her pop tart peers.