WAG THE DOG
Reviewed August 14th, 2000 by Chuck Arrington
Art imitates life in this political black comedy! When a news story breaks identifying the President as having had an affair with a young intern, a spin-doctor extraordinaire, Conrad Brean (Robert Deniro) is called in to clean up the mess by taking the public’s eyes off of the problem at hand by giving them another problem to focus on.
What better wag than to create a war to take America’s eyes off of her philandering President! Deniro turns to noted Film Producer Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman) who is absolutely beside himself with the prospect. He calls all of his big time friends & prepares his own “war room” for the battle at hand.
One thing leads to another & what was once just a small battle with Albania has turned into a soldier being left behind enemy lines & a theme song as written & sung by Willie Nelson & “Pops” Staple! All is going very well until, Motss insists on taking credit for his production, credit he knew from the star that could never be his. After all, what does the producer have other than the ability to tell & re-tell the story to all who will hear.
However, this is not a story that can be told & Brean will do anything…anything to keep the lid on this & protect the institution of the Presidency thus protecting the government & country at-large. In an instant, allies become enemies & what must be done in the interest of National security must be done.
Wag the Dog is a comedy about the absurdity of partisan politics & the fallibility of a human president. But, not all comedies have happy endings.
A 5.1 digital audio platform is used for the feature. IMHO, this is more like overkill than anything else. There were no extraneous aural effects that really required this platform. It is fabulous to be immersed totally in the audio atmosphere of the film but, it’s usage here could have been simply stereo & the effect would have been the same. There really weren’t enough effects to warrant the 5.1 but all in all, I’m glad it’s here.
The transfer is a beautifully rendered non-anamorphic widescreen image that’s really striking on all accounts. In a couple & only a couple of places, the blacks had maybe a moment of shimmering in the upper left quadrant of the image but other than that, the image was wonderfully transferred.
The coolest part of the disc, other than the film itself is the featurette entitled “From Washington to Hollywood & Back.” The director, producers, cast & consultants all chime in on the fact that the film was done in & around Washington long before any word of “Monica” surfaced. In fact, some of the elements of the intern in the film were actually tried & true “Monicaisms” most notably, the beret & the photo of the President & Monica greeting each other in the receiving line outside of the White House! So surreal, it’s almost scary!
The Director’s commentary was rather plain that is, until Dustin Hoffman adds his commentary & he lends all the back stage, behind-the-scenes information & gives you quite a bit of a laugh in his storytelling.
Also included is a trailer for the film, the usual cast & crew biographies & filmographies and an essay on the strange relationship between Politics & the Media.
I am a student of Politics/Political Science & this film was made for those of us who are gripped by all things political. It casts a light upon all we learned in College regarding Political Science (It’s my minor) & throws in some new twists that are not at all hard to swallow. So if you are a fan of politics & the inner workings of a political machine then this is definitely for you. If politics are not your bag & the whole subject annoys you, then avoid this puppy like the plague! Highly recommended!
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