Wag The Dog Cover Now if the media can bullshit the public, then who do you think can bullshit the media? Celebrities? Nah! Doctors? Nah! So what about some sort of two headed French speaking gorilla with a lisp? You know. Like the one depicted in this 97 minute movie made in 1997. It was Directed by Barry Levinson; and Starred: Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Woody Harrelson, with William H. Macy.

Wag The Dog : The Film - The Novel

Alright, Winifred (Anne Heche). So let me see if I've understood you correctly. You -- as one of the presidents acting advisers -- are asking me -- Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro) -- to cover up his recent sordid liaison with a girl scout, or else he won't be able to win the up and coming election.

Yeah. Sure. Why not. I can do that no sweat. To start off with, I think it would be a good idea to extend the presidents current stay over in China, by circulating at rumor relating to a so-called arms-deal. And then, whilst that's going on, I'll also hire the movie producer, Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman), to stage a mock war with... errr... let's say Albania. Aided and abetted by his usual cohorts, such as the Fad King (Denis Leary) and Johnny Dean (Willie Nelson).

Huh! What's that, my dear? What if my staged scenario doesn't work out because the FBI Agent, Charles Young (William H Macy), squelches ‘our war’ with a 'statement of peace’? Well. I tell you what. If my plan doesn't play out in the way it should, and Charles does rear his ugly head, what I'll do instead is devise a cover story involving Sergeant William Schumann's (Woody Harrelson) plight over in Albania. Tinging his sad tale with a re-mastered ‘old’ song we can sell to the paying public.

Yeah. That sound's like a great idea too. But then again, that's most probably why what next transpires all kicks off when an army man turns up stark raving mad. As martyrs are eventually made - politicians get constantly played - screen credits are ultimately relayed - and at the end of the day, both the media and the public are all very-very mislaid.

Now before I give you my gainful incite into this bold political satire, there are a couple of facts you should know about 'Wag The Dog' first.

To start off with I best mention that it was based on a book written by Larry Beinhart called 'American Hero'. And coincidentally it was filmed a year prior to the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal, plus the eminent war in Afghanistan. Secondly, the cast and the crew of this movie actually met Bill Clinton whilst shooting it, and never alluded to him what its was all about. And thirdly, there was some controversy surrounding the writing credits for this film. Whilst David Mamet thought he deserved sole credit because he adapted it into screenplay form, the studio thought Hilary Henkin also deserved a credit during the re-write stage. Results? Ambiguous to say the least.

Wag The Dog DVD
Oh! And on top of that: (1) 'New Line Cinema' first released this $15 million dollar production on the 17th of December, 1997, and eventually clawed back $64.2 million dollars at the box office. (2) Loosely translated, this project was entitled 'Lies That Kill Me' in Argentina; 'Staging' in Romania, and during pre-production it was given the working title, 'Bite The Bullet'. (3) Apart from those scenes shot at 'Culver Studios', Culver City, the rest of this movie was shot on location throughout the three American states of California, Washington, and Tennessee. In Tennessee you might notice Nashville, where as in California you might notice Fountain Valley, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, Visalia, and El Cholo. (4) During the America Civil War Abraham Lincoln originally used one of the campaign slogans uttered in this film -- "Why change horses midstream?". (5) According to Dustin Hoffman, he based his character of Stanley Motss on his own father plus the Hollywood movie producer, Robert Evans. (6) Now if you look very closely at the start of that 'movie studio sequence', you might notice the director of this flick, Barry Levinson, with his back turned against the camera. (7) After this picture urinated on a tree, Dustin Hoffman starred in the sci-fi thriller, 'Sphere'; Robert De Niro starred in the heist-movie, 'Jackie Brown'; and Anne Heche starred on a couple of episodes of the 'Ellen' TV show.

Wag The Dog Starring Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, and Anne Heche

Alright. So now I've got the trivia out of the way with, please allow me to state for the record that this movie is what I would call 'a thinking persons movie', and justifiably tells the tale of political intrigue in a rather buoyant and satirized manner. 

Wag The DogWag The Dog Starring Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, and Anne HecheInitially I would define the central premise as a simple one to follow -- The president is caught with his pants down and the people behind the scenes have to sort this mess out on his behalf. Then there are the obstacles barring their path -- Like the president’s political opponents plus the FBI. And to finish it off there comes the twist -- All the resolutions are fraught with error.

OK. So maybe to some of you keen movie buffs out there this stuff is kind of ‘play it by numbers’ and deemed too formulaic by nature. Nevertheless, the actual way in which this film is acted, projected, and then stamped upon the screen is anything but formulaic.

Well, all the actors involved are just magnificent to behold. You believe Robert De Niro is a master manipulator. You believe Dustin Hoffman is a movie producer. And you believe Anne Heche takes medication to make it through the day. Furthermore, because of the convincing tone this story is told in, you also believe that a story like this one could possibly be true.

Granted, I'm not one hundred percent certain why I believe it to be true. Especially as this film is an obvious satire. Though maybe this has something to do with how politics is a ‘somewhat ambiguous’ subject to contend with, and is just ripe for satirical commentary. 

Wag The Dog Starring Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, and Anne Heche
Tale a look at the great political satires of times past for example. Like 'Dr Strangelove', 'Primary Colors', or 'Mean Girls'. These films -- like this one -- manages to take a simplistic political premise, and then presents to the public a story we could all connect to on some level. And why do we all connect to it? Because politicians are not conversant at communicating their ware in a direct manner. And we, the people, are always circumspect of there actions because of this.

Now why can’t politicians be more like the media? Or then again is that the actual problem? They are! To be able to believe and trust someone is what is at the very heart of this film -- yet we believe the actors and not the politicians.

Boy! Isn't life ironic? Great film. Rambling review. Nuff said.


WAG THE DOG WAG THE DOG Reviewed by David Andrews on June 30, 2014 Rating: 5
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