Wag the Dog

Review Date:
Director: Barry Levinson
Writer: David Mamet, Hilary Henkin
Producers: Barry Levinson, Robert DeNiro, Jane Rosenthal
Robert De Niro
Dustin Hoffman
Anne Heche
The President of the United States is alleged to have had a sexual encounter with a firefly girl while in office. To divert the country’s attention from this politically fatal bit of information, the President’s spin staff go all out on creating true-to-life scenarios of more important and relevant news to the country. A Hollywood producer is brought in to orchestrate the diverting hoaxes, and maintain the President’s approval ratings until the re-election vote in eleven days time.
One-joke political talking heads film does not generate enough humour or excitement for me to appreciate the overall strong efforts put forth by all of its actors and director. This movie is basically based on one idea of pulling the wool over the country’s eyes and not much else. And as much as this concept intrigued me during its first ten to fifteen minutes, the repetitive nature of the film’s progression, just dragged any enthusiasm and interest completely out of my system. There are only so many scenes of people gathered in a small boardroom, and folks chatting things up through their cellulars that I could take before hungering out for something with a little more entertainment value.

Also, despite the film being classified as a political satire (I’ll be the first to admit that political films are not my favourite types of film), I found very little humour in this script, despite a few moments of cheeky cleverness. I’m sure that many people in the Hollywood and Washington inner-circles would appreciate many of the witty lines from this movie, but for me, it all seemed like a lot of talking by the same group of people about the interrelated ideas over and over and over again. Having said all that, the film did run a quick 90 minutes or so, did have a decent score, and did offer some unique directing ticks by Levinson, and solid performances by all involved.

Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro and Anne Heche all pull off dead-on portrayals of sneaks in the business world of show and politics. But despite their valiant efforts and high credibility factors, I did find myself rolling my eyes during many of the films scenarios of deception, and questioning their relatively ease of unfolding. And while the film does moniker itself a satire, I felt that too many of its media-fueled fantasies just made the entire American population and media appear to be a bunch of complete ignoramuses with not much more on their mind than TV and sensationalism. Not sure how factual that statement may be to true life, but I guess I would’ve preferred a stronger offensive from the plethora of cynics roaming today’s societal potpourri. All in all, I could picture this film endearing itself to all those fans of political fare, but gaining very little excitement from the rest of the American Joes of whom this film pokes fun. I personally liked its conclusion and acting performances, but found much of the rest of the film to be dry, repetitive and unfunny.

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian

Wag the Dog