From my review in the upcoming American Conservativz:
"... and the screenplay practically writes itself!"
It's hard to avoid suspecting that's how filmmaker Paul Weitz ended his pitch to Universal of the clever concept and casting for his roman à clef comedy "American Dreamz."
Having made "About a Boy" with Hugh Grant in 2002 and "In Good Company" with Dennis Quaid in 2005, both solid films, it must have seen only natural to Weitz (son of fashion designer turned historian John Weitz) to cast the two veterans together.
After dithering away the early years of his career as a fluttery romantic lead, Grant has emerged since 2001's "Bridget Jones' Diary" as Hollywood's finest cad, a worthy successor to the sardonic George Sanders. So why not have Grant play a self-loathing game show host based on Simon Cowell, the scathing English judge on the top-rated television show of the decade, American Idol?
Back in the 1980s, Quaid's status was a lot like Ronald Reagan's in the early 1940s -- a likeable and reliable second-tier leading man. Then, Quaid wrecked his career with cocaine. He has made a comeback playing middle-aged Texans (winningly in "The Rookie" as a washed up minor leaguer, and distressingly in "The Alamo" as a Sam Houston who seems to be suffering from a gastrointestinal malady). So, let's cast him as a clueless doofus based on George W. Bush!...
One problem with "American Dreamz" as a satire is that American Idol is one of those rare pop culture phenomena, like the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire quiz show a half dozen years ago, that just isn't all that deplorable. Idol's basic appeal is ancient: it's a singing contest for the whole family to watch. And its most controversial feature -- Simon's blunt advice to many entrants to discard their dreams and get a real job, something that powerful men in the music industry are not always known for saying when confronted with pretty but talentless girls desperate for a break -- is also its most admirable. (If you wonder how movie people can be so self-righteous despite their often dubious personal behavior, one answer lies in their ability to say, "At least we're not music executives.")