Never mind that I am saving up all my real praise for Spice World next week... I'll try to lay it on again for Wag the Dog. It's a great little premise: what would happen if you tried to produce a phony war as a diversion away from a lecherous President's leisure time? A lot of wacky hijinks, from the looks of it! With everything from a "We Are the World" parody to a memorial for a P.O.W., Wag the Dog is really just a send-up of America's fascination with war from WWII through the Gulf War, where combat truly became a ridiculous exercise in soundbites and TV footage.
The story is good, the comedy is goofy but still solid, but it's Dustin Hoffman that is the crown jewel of the film, hamming it up as a kind of C.C. De Mille-meets-Liberace egomaniac/movie producer. De Niro's understated cover-up man is also good, and Anne Heche's Prince Valiant haircut is interesting, at the very least.
Finally, the commentary on our society is pretty rich, and I can't help but think that a lot of people are going to be subtly offended by this movie. I think that pleases me most of all. You see, as Wag the Dog states, modern war really is a "pageant." It's more dangerous to drive to work than hit the front lines... if there are any lines, that is. Is it live, or is it Memorex? What's the difference?
Marvin Zindler, am I right? (I only expect Houston, TX residents to get this...)
Run time: 97 mins
In Theaters: Friday 9th January 1998
Box Office Worldwide: $64.3M
Distributed by: New Line Cinema
Production compaines: New Line Cinema, Tribeca Productions, Baltimore Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Fresh: 61 Rotten: 11
IMDB: 7.1 / 10
Director: Barry Levinson
Starring: Dustin Hoffman as Stanley Motss, Robert De Niro as Conrad Brean, Anne Heche as Winifred Ames, Denis Leary as Fad King, Willie Nelson as Johnny Dean, Andrea Martin as Liz Butsky, Kirsten Dunst as Tracy Lime, William H. Macy as CIA Agent Charles Young, John Michael Higgins as John Levy, Suzie Plakson as Grace, Woody Harrelson as Sergeant William Schumann, Michael Belson as President, Suzanne Cryer as Amy Cain, Jason Cottle as A.D.
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