Paul Weitz has become a mystery to me. He did a stand-up job directing the consistently hilarious AMERICAN PIE and wonderfully entertaining ABOUT A BOY, and then he pulled a double-punch when he both wrote and directed one of the best films of 2004, IN GOOD COMPANY. So what the hell happened here? I mean, the two worst aspects of the film are the script and the direction... and he's accountable for both! The only standout highlight here is the acting, with the performers truly owning their roles to full effect. I especially loved Omer's gay cousin, who, despite playing an annoying character, did a great job of making it work. Also solid in their roles are the always-charming Hugh Grant, cutey patootey Mandy Moore, and talented newcomer Sam Golzari (who plays Omer, the show tunes-loving Iraqi). Dennis Quaid, on the other hand, has f**k-all to work with, bumbling around like a moron in a series of poor Bush jabs (and Willem Dafoes' Cheney is no better, despite his best efforts).
AMERICAN DREAMZ is a movie that should be great, but fails at even being good. It introduces plenty of elements perfectly ripe for lampooning, and then does nothing with them (well, at least nothing worthwhile or funny). It also pathetically backs out like a coward at every chance for controversy, which I guess is a good thing in this case, since they probably would've f**ked that up too. From the looks of it, Weitz seemed to be more focused on making a silly, feel-good teen flick than the clever, harsh parody of current worldly affairs that the premise promised.
Audio Commentary (with director Paul Weitz): Right off the bat Weitz captured my interest by discussing not so much the movie, but all the problems involved with DVD commentaries. Steering clear of these, he divulges plenty of interesting and informative tidbits about the film's development and the actors involved. To spice things up, Sam Golzari shows up about half way through the film.
Deleted Scenes (12:07): There are 13 scenes, a few of which are quite funny and worth watching (like Omer's mall trip). The rest are basically excess segments that feel more like sound bites.
Center Stage: Sally Kendoo (3:58): A humorous send-up of those lame TV-produced backstage tours, this one focusing on Mandy Moore's character going behind-the-scenes of the American Dreamz show.
Dance Dreamz (7:27): This is a real behind-the-scenes featurette, discussing the work done with choreographer Jennifer Li. Footage is shown with the actors working on their humorous dance routines, and interview segments including Sam Golzari, Paul Weitz, and Tony Yalda (the hilarious gay cousin). Check it out.