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Universal Studios

Official Site

Director: Paul Weitz

Producers: Rodney M. Liber, Andrew Miano, Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz

Written by: Paul Weitz

Cast: Hugh Grant, Dennis Quaid, Mandy Moore, Sam Golzari, Chris Klein


This one surprised me. I walked in expecting a somewhat toothless comedy (How hard is it to make fun of “American Idol” and the President?), but when I walked out, I was shocked that this movie went as far as it did. Why would a movie that’s advertised as a cheery comedy that pokes fun at pop culture turn out to be a dark comedy that ends with a bang? I don’t know. Maybe Paul Weitz wanted to trick people into seeing this movie—the kind of people who need to have their worldviews tipped on their sides. Maybe the head honchos marketing this flick don’t even realize how fucked up it is. I can’t tell you why they aren’t presenting this as a dark comedy. I can only tell you that the humor is as black as the charred remains of a suicide bomber.

President Joe Staton (Quaid) has just won a hard-fought reelection campaign and is struggling to find a raison d’être for his second term. Taking a radical shift from the norm, he reads the reports from the outside press and is no longer suckling from the presidential briefings that his chief of staff (Dafoe) has been forcing down his brain-hole for years. He’s shocked to find that there is a strange, nebulous color between the black and white of the spectrum that used to guide his decisions. Meanwhile, Omer Obeidi (Golzari) has been discharged from al-Qaeda boot camp and is now a sleeper in the U.S. He has been ordered to live a normal life with his (filthy fucking rich) cousins, only to rise from the shadows and strike at Babylon when he is contacted. That was never supposed to happen, but when he accidentally lands a spot on the hit show, “American Dreamz,” a horrible man gives him a horrible task. In Smalltown, USA, Sally Kendoo (Moore) has just broken up with her boyfriend William Williams (Klein) after receiving the good news that she, too, will be a contestant on “American Dreamz”. She knows that she needs to do more than sing her heart out in order to win: She needs to tug at the heartstrings of America. Sally discusses this with Martin Tweed (Grant), who develops a fast fascination with the cutthroat bitch. Tweed apparently has a thing for the kind of girl who doesn’t wet herself with giddy glee when the famous host of “American Dreamz” graces her with his presence.

This movie does a wonderful job following the main characters: the President, Omer, Sally, Martin Tweed, and, to a lesser degree, William Williams. I love all of them. If the character is not directly funny, then comedy has a tight orbit around him. There’s also a score of side characters who are given sufficient attention to be memorable, but not enough to be cumbersome. Well, I guess Sally’s mom got pretty old, but her agent wasn’t bad. The gangsta Jew was also hilarious. Shalom bitches! But there’s a serious side, too. What does fame do to a person’s mind? How can you maintain a grasp on reality when your life is surreal? And, of course, the philosophical musings of a prospective suicide bomber shouldn’t be taken lightly. To what degree are Americans responsible for the actions of America? Can the infliction of suffering really make the world a better place? Who is to answer for Omer’s mother, killed by an American bomb?

To sum up, this is a damn funny movie. Not the funniest, mind you, but still damn funny. Take someone who likes a good joke and isn’t disturbed by fucked up things. Use your discretion as to whether or not you are going to pay for both tickets. Oh, and make sure you see this at a theater that lets you get buzzed. Two beers might make this a five-star movie.

—Duncan Wright

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

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