WAG THE DOG (1997)

Movie Info

Movie Notes

I don’t have to explain why this satirical film is perhaps even more relevant today than it was when it was released in 1997. (Has it really been 22 years since Pres. Clinton was in hot water over his sexual exploits!) I have not changed a word of this since its publication in the Feb. 1998 issue, except to divide the text into paragraphs. I just wish I had explored the film a little more fully.

Movie Info

Barry Levinson
Run Time
1 hour and 37 minutes

VP Content Ratings

Sex & Nudity
Star Rating
★★★★4 out of 5

Barry Levinson’s political satire is as dark as the TV-skewering Network. Compared to Mr. Levinson’s earlier films Tin Man and Avalon, it is starkly cynical of just about everything American – politics, the media, and the public.

With election day just two weeks away a teenager accuses the President of sexually assaulting her when her group is touring the White House. Spinmeister Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro) is brought in for damage control. His prescription is that what the country (or the President) needs is a nice little war to divert the attention of the press and public.

He begins by denying things that aren’t true anyway, such as plans for a B-3 bomber, and thus arousing the press’s suspicion that there really is such a plane in the works — and also that the Albanians just might be massing their troops. No problem in coming up with good war footage. He knows just the man to produce a tele-war– Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman), producer of big blockbuster movies.

The only catch this time is that Stanley will not be able to see his name on the screen as producer. (It’s bad enough, he laments, that there is no special “Producer” Academy Award!)

How the country and those in the know at the CIA are all fooled makes for enjoyable, if a bit disturbing viewing.  Disturbing in that respect for the media and politicians is so low anyway that this spoof almost sounds plausible. And, as our real President faces the kind of charges made in the movie, we see that the line between reality and fiction is breached every day.

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