Hugh Grant takes the spotlight as Martin Tweed, the Simon Cowell-esque host of ratings-busting talent show American Dreamz. To juice up the latest contest, Tweed pits an Arab, a Jew and an all-American blonde against one another... and persuades the bewildered US President (Dennis Quaid) to judge the grand final. Taking a pop at Pop Idol and American politics, this amusing satire from the co-creator of American Pie will win many a viewer's vote.
Marcia Gay Harden
As the Svengali-ish host of the insanely popular 'American Dreamz' TV show, Hugh Grant adds another layer to the dishevelled playboy he pioneered in About A Boy, his previous collaboration with writer-director Weitz.
Throw in a gaggle of "next big things", a president realising his true powerless place in the world and a band of terrorists hell-bent on causing mayhem on live TV and you have that very rare thing: an effective and intelligent ensemble comedy.
Far from Altman-lite, American Dreamz has the barbed wit and neatly judged performances to back up its own convictions.
Mandy Moore, here using her former incarnation as a teeny popster for good rather than evil, is a devious delight as Sally, the Ohio girl whose apple-pie exterior hides the media tart within.
Sam Golzari also perfectly captures the requisite desperation, dedication and perspiration of don't-wannabe terrorist Omer.
Even Dennis Quaid bumbles about the West Wing in a permanent state of post-alcoholic confusion (any bells ringing here?) to good effect as dopey President Staton.
And that's without mentioning the stunning Willem Dafoe - or should that be his stunning hairline? - as Staton's Chief of Staff.
However, there are a few bum notes. The president's coming-of-age and the ill-fitting
Its subtle observations on both the gutter state of populist television and those who clamour to bathe in its warming glow is at the same time familiar and refreshing.
Both delights and contrivances combine to provide a bombshell final reel that is at least a dozen shades darker than anyone would expect.