David Merrill (Robert De Niro), a fictitious 1950s Hollywood director, returns from filming abroad in France to find that his loyalty has been called into question by the House Committee on... See full summary »
Robert De Niro,
After being caught in a scandalous situation days before the election, the president does not seem to have much of a chance of being re-elected. One of his advisers contacts a top Hollywood producer in order to manufacture a war in Albania that the president can heroically end, all through mass media. Written by
During the filming of Wag the Dog (1997) Dustin Hoffman, his co-star Robert De Niro and director Barry Levinson had an impromptu meeting with President Bill Clinton at a Washington hotel. "So what's this movie about?" Clinton asked De Niro. De Niro looked over to Levinson, hoping he would answer the question. Levinson, in turn, looked over to Hoffman. Hoffman, realizing there was no one else to pass the buck to, is quoted as saying, "So I just started to tap dance. I can't even remember what I said." See more »
One of the first opening shots shows an exterior view of the White House with the rooftop flag clearly raised signifying the President is in residence, yet during the first meeting it is said that the President is in China. Another shot of the White House is shown with the flag raised again. See more »
During the campaign to re-elect the president of America, an underage sex scandal between a girl scout and the president in the oval office. To divert attention spin doctor Conrad Brean is called in to manage the fall out and hold it off for the 11 days till the election. Conrad employs Hollywood producer Stanley Motss to produce a war in Albania to divert the media away from the real story.
This was made before Clinton was accused of misconduct with Monica Lewinsky and the subsequent re-start of military action in Iraq. This seemed to give it a much greater feel of realism and much more credibility. However even before this happened it was still a very sharp and very good satire on political spin, but also managing to have a dig at Hollywood movie types. The story is told in a very stage-play fashion and is dialogue driven with very funny moments throughout. It's not as terrifying as a real look at media manipulation could be because it chooses to be a comedy instead but it still makes plenty of valid points.
The two leads are excellent at the head of an all-star cast. De Niro manages to be a professor-style character while at the same time having an easily accessible sense of menace just beneath the surface. Hoffman is good sending up Hollywood producers well and drawing parallels between the creation of a film and the creation of political news stories. The cast also has a series of cameos and extended cameos who add both humour and quality to the film - Willie Nelson, Denis Leary, James Belsuhi, William H Macy etc.
Recently in the UK we've had huge problems with spin doctors running the Labour Government - to the extent that 11th September was described as "good" by one as it gave them the chance to bury several bad news stories that they had stored up. And more recently with various Governments' waging a media war to win support their stance regarding military action. This film doesn't make hugely serious points but it does make you think about how the media is used to shape public perception and make us think what those in charge want us to think.
Overall a very funny, very clever satire that has a great cast, the only criticism being that it stretches it's point a little too far with the "old shoe" section.
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