Urban Cinefile
"Somehow it always comes out that way - that I wear black. I have to start thinking more about wearing colorful clothes "  -Al Pacino
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Wednesday, October 18, 2017 

Search SEARCH FOR A VIDEO_FILE
Our Review Policy OUR REVIEW POLICY
Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE

Help/Contact

WAG THE DOG

SYNOPSIS:
Less than two weeks before election day, a sex scandal involving a young intern erupts that threatens to cripple the US Presidentís bid for a second term. But before the incident can cause irreparable damage, a mysterious fixer is called to the White House. The ultimate spin doctor, Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro) has the uncanny ability to manipulate politics, the press and most importantly, the American people. Anticipating the reaction of a frenzied press corps, Brean deftly deflects attention from the President by creating a bigger and better story; a war. With the help of Stanley Motss (the "t" is silent) (Dustin Hoffman), a famed Hollywood producer and his irreverent entourage, Brean assembles an unlikely crisis team who orchestrate a conflict unlike any ever seen on CNN.

"Letís first pay tribute to Larry Beinhart, the writer of American Hero, the novel on which Wag the Dog is based, without whom scriptwriters Hilary Henkin and David Mamet would not have had such a rich minefield to tread Ė nor so many socio-political landmines to let off. Whatís wonderful about the film, on the other hand, is that Barry Levinson has captured the satire, the barbed insight into some aspects of the modern American psyche, without getting too far distant from reality. The setting is alarmingly close to reality, at least as far as Presidential sex scandals are concerned, which merely propels the guffaw factor and lends even more fuel to the sarcastic fire. It is all ALMOST entirely credible. None of this would be possible without the performances, all of which are rounded and all of which are anchored in strong characters. You even get to like some of them, in spite of themselves. It is a singular pleasure to see Americans give themselves open heart surgery on the worldís screens like this, and to see that they can tell a diseased section is heartening, too. It means they have insight, which is half way to enlightenment. And a long way towards terrific entertainment. Of course, they now need to go into serious therapy . . . "
Andrew L. Urban

"Witty, sharp and extremely funny, Wag the Dog is a satirical and cynical look at American culture. With a wonderfully wicked script that at times looms frighteningly close to reality, Barry Levinsonís film is brisk, well-paced and overwhelmingly entertaining. Politics, the film industry and the media are under the magnifying glass, and no-one is spared. The premise is absolutely irresistible - Mr Fixit hires film producer to save the President from a sex-scandal before an election. And what a cast! Hoffman, DeNiro and Heche - a strong three-some, if ever there was one. Hoffman revels in his role as the film producer who orchestrates events as a novelist creates fiction. Ego is paramount to his being, and for which he pays a big price. DeNiro has great presence, showing no scruples nor conscience in manipulating firstly the media, then the world. Appearance is everything, and truth has little relevance. In a stroke of genius casting, Willie Nelson is a treat as the song-writer, who delivers songs exuding national pride, from the production line of hypocrisy. And Mark Knopflerís score is pretty good, too. Wag the Dog is a ride on the big dipper - itís a blast before, during and after the trip."
Louise Keller

"Not since Hal Ashbyís Shampoo has a political satire emerged with as much smarts as Barry Levinsonís Wag the Dog. For starters, despite its high-powered cast and director, the movie didnít cost an arm and a leg, but a mere $15m and shot in 30 days. Not that youíd notice. The film looks great, featuring exemplary performances and a script that crackles and pops with consistent wit and sharp observations. Wag the Dog is a true gem. The film explores the notion of media manipulation, and does so with brazen inventiveness and originality. The manner in which the scam in the film is executed Ė complete with mock war footage (hilariously created with a bemused actress hired to play an Albanian war refugee), appropriate songs (performed by Willie Nelson) and even a fictitious war hero, makes for deliciously droll material. Featuring a terrific script by David Mamet, Barry Levinsonís astute direction, and brilliant work by Dustin Hoffman (at his best as the garish producer who craves recognition for film producers everywhere) and Robert DeNiro as the cool Mr Fixit, Wag the Dog is witty, fascinating and compelling cinema. Regrettably, the movie is so parochial in its examination of American politics and culture, that itís hard to know whether international audiences will find as much to laugh at, as the Americans. Itís a pity, because this kind of savvy political satire is so rare in an industry plagued by repetitious mediocrity, that a jewel such as this ought to be savoured."
Paul Fischer

Email this article

_______________

CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1
_______________

_______________

"Barry Levinson has captured the satire, the barbed insight into some aspects of the modern American psyche, without getting too far distant from reality."Andrew L. Urban

_______________

"Witty, sharp and extremely funny"Louise Keller

_______________

"Wag the Dog is a ride on the big dipper - itís a blast before, during and after the trip."Louise Keller

_______________

".. a script that crackles and pops with consistent wit and sharp observations."Paul Fischer

_______________

"Wag the Dog is witty, fascinating and compelling cinema."Paul Fischer

_______________

WAG THE DOG (M)
(US)

CAST: Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Anne Heche, Woody Harrelson, Denis Leary, Willie Nelson, Andrea Martin, Michael Belson, Suzanne Cryer, John Michael Higgins, Suzy Plakson, Kirsten Dunst, William H. Macy

DIRECTOR: Barry Levinson

PRODUCER: Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro, Barry Levinson

SCRIPT: Hilary Henkin, David Mamet (based on the novel American Hero by Larry Bernhart)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Richardson

EDITOR: Stu Linder

MUSIC: Mark Knopfler

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Wynn Thomas

RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 5, 1998

VIDEO RELEASE: June 14, 1999

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Ent.

RRP: $24.95







© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2017