Film capsules

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‘American Dreamz’

Like the catchiest pop song, this can be exuberantly fun, bring a smile to your face, even leave you feeling slightly giddy after it’s over. And it provides zero in terms of actual substance. Writer-director Paul Weitz’s parody of “American Idol” and America’s president is dead-on, filled with perfect details, sharp dialogue and many reasons to laugh out loud. Dennis Quaid, who starred in Weitz’s 2004 corporate comedy “In Good Company,” is a wholly inspired choice to play the good ol’ boy commander in chief. And Hugh Grant, the star of Weitz’s 2002 grown-up, coming-of-age movie “About a Boy,” functions beautifully as an amalgamation of Ryan Seacrest, Simon Cowell and “American Idol” creator Simon Fuller. But while it’s just as timely as those two previous films, “American Dreamz” lacks the brains of the former and the heart of the latter. And even as the film expertly re-enacts these cultural and political phenomena, it has nothing insightful or refreshing to say about them. Rated: PG-13 for brief strong language and some sexual references. Rating: 2½ out of 4 stars.

‘The Wild’

Talking animals from a New York zoo leave the comfortable confines of their familiar urban existence and wind up in an exotic foreign land, where they traipse through tall trees, cheekily joke with each other, face their fears and, in the process, become better people. Er, creatures. Sounds familiar, you say? You saw it already – when it was called “Madagascar.” You’ll be forgiven for confusing Disney’s “The Wild” with last year’s all-star animated escapade from Dreamworks. They are essentially the same picture, separated by 11 months and one dimension. Whereas “Madagascar” was decidedly old school in its slapsticky visual approach, this is obsessive in its realistic, three-dimensional details. But because the two films are so similar structurally and thematically, and because they’ve been released so close to each other, “The Wild” comes off as a toothless retread, even though it supposedly has been in the works for nine years. Featuring the voices of Kiefer Sutherland, Janeane Garofalo, William Shatner and a scene-stealing Eddie Izzard as a bad-boy British koala. Rated: G. Rating: 2 out of 4 stars.

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