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Comedy - Black

Wag the Dog (1997)

Duration1h 37m
RatingsUK: 15, USA: R, Denmark: 11 
Source of storyLoosely based on a 1993 book American Hero by Larry Beinhart
DirectorBarry Levinson
Writers/ScriptHilary Henkin, David Mamet
StarringDustin Hoffman, Robert De Nero, Anne Heche, Woody Harrelson, Willie Nelson, Andrea Martin, Kirsten Dunst, William H. Macey, John Cho, Jim Belushi, George Gaynes, 
RatingsIMDb: 7.1/10 by 82,208 people.  Rotten Tomatoes: 86% by 76 reviewers. Review2view: 9/10.

After the president of the USA is said to have groped a teenage girl in the Oval Office a couple of weeks before an election, his PR team call in spin doctor Conrad Brean to sort things out. Brean determines that they need a war to change the focus of the general public and so he and Winifred Ames, the head of the president’s PR team, go to Hollywood to enlist the help of producer Stanley Motss. Motss grabs the opportunity and produces a narrative which includes a bomb in the US and fighting in Albania. When the opposition get the FBI on the case he terminates the war, but develops a scenario where a veteran is left behind the lines. It is a plot line that comes back to bite them.

Content: There is no sex or nudity, although there is an attempted rape off screen, the rapist being killed. Lots of drinking and smoking. The president’s PR people meet in a darkened room. Once in Hollywood Brean and Winifred spend a lot of time in Motss’s mansion while they discuss possible ploys. Once in the studio a scene of a young woman running away from a bombing is ingeniously constructed. Willie Nelson, as himself, writes patriotic songs to go with the scam. 

A View: Dustin Hoffman was nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars but did not win. I think his portrayal of Stanley Motss is genius. It is said that the film foreshadowed the Clinton-Lewinsky legal activity. Whether it did or not it is a wonderfully witty outing which in my view never puts a foot wrong and even today is well worth an hour and a half of your time. 

A couple of other comedies in which Dustin Hoffman has appeared, reviewed on this site: The Graduate, Meet the Parents 2: Meet the Fockers

About Victor R Gibson

Author of this site three technical books and two novels

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