Wag the Dog

Wag the Dog

5.0 1
Director: Barry Levinson

Cast: Barry Levinson, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Anne Heche

     
 

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In a 29-day shoot, Barry Levinson filmed this $15 million political and media satire, adapted by Hilary Henkin and David Mamet from Larry Beinhart's novel, American Hero. Two weeks prior to re-election, the President (Michael Belson) is accused of cornering an underage girl in the Oval Office. To keep the media from learning of this, Presidential adviser

Overview

In a 29-day shoot, Barry Levinson filmed this $15 million political and media satire, adapted by Hilary Henkin and David Mamet from Larry Beinhart's novel, American Hero. Two weeks prior to re-election, the President (Michael Belson) is accused of cornering an underage girl in the Oval Office. To keep the media from learning of this, Presidential adviser Winifred Ames (Anne Heche) brings in political consultant and spin doctor Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro), a specialist in such salvage operations. Brean suggests fabricating denials of non-existent emergencies -- such as denials about the B-3 bomber. The denial, of course, is true, since no B-3 bomber exists. Brean visits the mansion of Hollywood producer Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman) and gives him the assignment to create a patriotic campaign centered around a war in Albania. Motss assembles a creative team -- Liz Butsky (Andrea Martin), the trend-setter Fad King (Denis Leary), and songwriter Johnny Green (Willie Nelson). Treated like an ad campaign, the songs and symbols are transmitted directly from a Hollywood soundstage to CNN. The star of their campaign is a "rescued" pilot -- in reality, a psychotic military prisoner (Woody Harrelson), who's a ticking time bomb. The flag-waving song, "The American Dream" was written for the film by Tom Bahler (who co-wrote "We Are the World"). Beinhart's original novel involved a real President (Bush), a real war (the Gulf War), and the premise that George Bush and Saddam Hussein staged it.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
Barry Levinson filmed this dead-on political satire in a mere 29 days, working from David Mamet and Hilary Henkin's smart adaptation of the Larry Beinhart novel American Hero. Wag the Dog came out not long before the nation found out about its own President's sexual misconduct; the prophetic script gets its laughs not from outlandish fantasy, but from the realization that it's only marginally removed from plausibility. The fake war the movie cooks up, for example, is set in the real nation of Albania, and the viewer is challenged to accept the characters' convictions that the American public doesn't know or even care where Albania is. The cast is excellent, led by Dustin Hoffman's hilarious send-up of a Hollywood producer and Robert De Niro's devious spin doctor. Even the minor characters entertain: Willie Nelson is great in his small role as a songwriter, and Woody Harrelson makes an appearance as a crazy-eyed vet.

Product Details

Release Date:
11/03/1998
UPC:
0794043470431
Original Release:
1997
Rating:
R
Source:
New Line Home Video

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Dustin Hoffman Stanley Motss
Robert De Niro Conrad Brean
Anne Heche Winifred Ames
Woody Harrelson Sgt. William Schumann
Denis Leary Fad King
Willie Nelson Johnny Green
Andrea Martin Liz Butsky
Michael Belson President
Suzanne Cryer Amy Cain
John Michael Higgins John Levy
Suzie Plakson Grace
Kirsten Dunst Tracy Lime
William H. Macy Mr. Young
Merle Haggard Himself
Roebuck "Pops" Staples Himself
Jason Cottle "A D" (Assistant Director)

Technical Credits
Barry Levinson Director,Producer
Steve Cantamessa Sound/Sound Designer
Ellen Chenoweth Casting
Michael De Luca Executive Producer
Robert De Niro Producer
Robert Greenfield Set Decoration/Design
Hilary Henkin Screenwriter
Mark Knopfler Score Composer
Stu Linder Editor
David Mamet Screenwriter
Claire Rudnick Polstein Executive Producer
Robert Richardson Cinematographer
Jane Rosenthal Producer
Rita Ryack Costumes/Costume Designer
Amy Sayres Asst. Director
Ezra Swerdlow Executive Producer
Wynn P. Thomas Production Designer
Mark Worthington Art Director
Debra Zane Casting

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Wag the Dog 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This movie shows us what just might be happening in the government right now. It's a political satire involving a president caught in a sex scandal less than two weeks from the presidential election. A political spin doctor (Robert De Niro) is called in and creates a fake war with Albania to overshadow the scandal, with the help of a Hollywood producer (Dustin Hoffman). This movie is very funny but somewhat disturbing in that it makes you wonder if the government really works this way. I'd heartily recommend this movie to conspiracy buffs, anyone who is critical of our current government (you'll quickly notice some parallels to the war in Iraq), or anyone who likes political satires. Dustin Hoffman should have won an Oscar for his performance in this movie; he was funny but at the same time very real. Enjoy!