The US President has been caught in a major scandal two weeks before the elections and it is up to White House advisor Ronnie Brean (Robert De Niro) to save his political career. So Breen hires Hollywood producer Stan Moss (Dustin Hoffman) to help divert the country's attention away from the presidential scandal. They come up with a plan to fake a war, complete with photogenic actresses playing vote-winning refugees and rock stars commissioned to record stirring anthems for freedom. The President seems set for re-election on a wave of patriotic fervour, but a Senator is closing in on the truth about the 'phoney war'.
Wag the Dog
(1997) is a rarity: an intelligent, sophisticated and very funny film about American politics. Just before an election the President--in an uncanny anticipation of real life--gets sexually involved with a young woman, leaving spin-doctor Robert De Niro to think of something quick. He enlists Hollywood producer Dustin Hoffman to help him concoct a war against Albania to take the public's mind off the President's peccadilloes. Both stars are in top form, with Hoffman particularly funny as the larger than life producer. Scripted by David Mamet (House of Games
, Glengarry Glen Ross
) and directed by Barry Levinson, (whose previous comedies include Good Morning, Vietnam
with Robin Williams and Tin Men
with Danny De Vito) Wag the Dog
manages to make you laugh even while you're thinking about how true the insights are, and how politics is getting more like the media every day.
On the DVD: The so-called platinum DVD is packed with features. There is a series of production shots, assembled in no particular order, some showing the director watching filming on his monitor. There are interview clips with Hoffman, De Niro, Anne Heche, William H Macy and Barry Levinson talking about the film, plus scrolled filmographies. There's an audio commentary on the whole film by Levinson and Hoffman, occasionally rambling but with some interesting insights. In another feature, Macy talks at some length about David Mamet. There are extensive scroll-down production notes giving useful information (such as the film's budget), and finally a 50-minute documentary in which producer Jane Rosenthal talks about the relationship between the film and real-life politics. Her comments are supplemented by such luminaries as writer Budd Schulberg, director John Frankenheimer, newscaster Tom Brokaw and Dee Dee Myers, former White House press secretary. The Dolby Digital soundtrack is good quality, as is the image in 16:9 ratio. --Ed Buscombe
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.