7.1/10
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219 user 135 critic

Wag the Dog (1997)

Shortly before an election, a spin-doctor and a Hollywood producer join efforts to fabricate a war in order to cover up a presidential sex scandal.

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(book), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 18 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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CIA Agent Charles Young
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John Levy
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Grace
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Michael Belson ...
President
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Amy Cain
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A.D.
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Director
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Storyline

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 Christy

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

A Hollywood producer. A Washington spin-doctor. When they get together, they can make you believe anything. See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

Language:

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Release Date:

9 January 1998 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Bite the Bullet  »

Box Office

Budget:

$15,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$92,079 (USA) (26 December 1997)

Gross:

$43,022,524 (USA) (1 May 1998)
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

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Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

"Why change horses midstream?" was originally a campaign slogan for Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

Conrad 'Connie' Brean: A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.
See more »

Crazy Credits

"Special Thanks to The Cast and Crew for Completing Principal Photography in 29 Days!" See more »

Connections

Referenced in Dinner for Five: Episode #1.4 (2002) See more »

Soundtracks

Ballad of the Green Berets
(uncredited)
Composed by Barry Sadler
[parodied by "God Bless The Men Of The 303"]
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User Reviews

Short & sharp satire on media manipulation
4 January 2002 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

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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