The commercial I saw for American Dreamz the other night introduces us to the main characters: The President; The Chief of Staff; The Wanna-Be Star; The Boyfriend; The TV Host; The Stage Mother. Unfortunately, those descriptions are about as deep as the character development gets in this tepid comedy from Paul Weitz, the director of About a Boy, In Good Company and American Pie. While no one gets it on with a hot dessert in Weitz's newest film, neither does the comedy ever get more than lukewarm. I suspect this is one of those movie ideas that sounded a whole lot better in the pitch meeting than when it ended up in theaters.
Part of the problem is that the film doesn't really seem to know what it wants to be when it grows up. We have a wanna-be political satire about a dumb Southern president (gee, wonder who Dennis Quaid is supposed to be lampooning here?) who wakes up the day after his reelection and decides to start thinking. His sedated First Lady is played by Marcia Gay Harden (so obviously Laura Bush she might as well be wearing a "Hello My Name Is ..." tag), and Willem Dafoe, doing his best Dick Cheney impression, is the controlling Chief of Staff.
Then we have the would-be social satire of a reality TV show where wanna-be pop tarts perform for the votes of audience members, and things aren't always what they seem on camera. Weitz works again with Hugh Grant, his star from About A Boy, who plays Martin Tweed, the snarky, British, malcontented host of the show. If you're going to cast anyone in the part of a Simon Cowell-esque TV host, you couldn't do much better than to cast Grant in the part. Likewise, Mandy Moore (playing against type again, as she did in Saved!, by playing a nice girl who's really not-so-nice beneath the surface) is an excellent choice to play Sally Kendoo, who is so desperate to leave behind her "white trash rural Ohio roots" she would probably sacrifice her own mother (Jennifer Coolidge) for success.