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Wag the Dog (1997)

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Shortly before an election, a spin-doctor and a Hollywood producer join efforts to fabricate a war in order to cover up a Presidential sex scandal.

Director:

Barry Levinson

Writers:

Larry Beinhart (book), Hilary Henkin (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 20 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Dustin Hoffman ... Stanley Motss
Robert De Niro ... Conrad Brean
Anne Heche ... Winifred Ames
Woody Harrelson ... Sgt. William Schumann
Denis Leary ... Fad King
Willie Nelson ... Johnny Dean
Andrea Martin ... Liz Butsky
Michael Belson Michael Belson ... President
Suzanne Cryer ... Amy Cain
John Michael Higgins ... John Levy
Suzie Plakson ... Grace
Kirsten Dunst ... Tracy Lime
Jason Cottle ... A.D.
David Koechner ... Director
Harland Williams ... Pet Wrangler
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Storyline

After being caught in a scandalous situation days before the election, the president does not seem to have much of a chance of being re-elected. One of his advisers contacts a top Hollywood producer in order to manufacture a war in Albania that the president can heroically end, all through mass media. Written by Christy

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Why does a dog wag its tail? Because a dog is smarter than its tail. If the tail were smarter, the tail would wag the dog. See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Barry Levinson | Production Notes 1 | See more »

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Albanian

Release Date:

9 January 1998 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Bite the Bullet See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$15,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$92,079, 28 December 1997

Gross USA:

$43,061,945

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$64,256,513
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film was released during the Presidency of William Jefferson Clinton, which ran between January 1993 (inauguration) and January 2001 (end of term). See more »

Goofs

A few pieces of technical equipment are seen several times reflected from Motss' glasses. Also, in the songwriting scene, there is a camera stand in one corner of the studio (although this may be part of the decor of the producers' house). See more »

Quotes

Winifred Ames: So when we touch down tomorrow, Big Bird is going to meet Schumann at the airport, huh?
Stanley Motss: Big mistake, big mistake. You gotta bring them in by stages. Big mistake to reveal Schumann before the election.
Winifred Ames: How so?
Stanley Motss: Sweetheart, Schumann is the shark. Okay? Schumann is Jaws, you know? You have to tease them. You gotta tease them. You don't put Jaws in the first reel of the movie. It's the contract, sweetheart. The contract of the election, whether they know it or not, is "Vote for me Tuesday, Wednesday...
See more »

Crazy Credits

"Special Thanks to The Cast and Crew for Completing Principal Photography in 29 Days!" See more »

Connections

Featured in If We Picked the Winners (1998) See more »

Soundtracks

Good Old Shoe
Written by Edgar Winter
Performed by Willie Nelson & Roebuck 'Pops' Staples (as Pops Staples)
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Doesn't quite hit it's stride...
16 August 1999 | by AdecSee all my reviews

As the calibre of the talent involved would suggest Wag The Dog is a very well acted and directed film, however for some strange reason it isn't a particularly satisfying one.

Perhaps that is mainly due to the fact that it is somewhat of a one joke idea, or maybe it's due to the fact that with current events as they are it's all too plausible and the whole thing of late is somewhat comically overexposed. Whatever it may be in the end you can't help but feeling that the film somehow missed a beat somewhere along the line and ultimately wasn't all that it should or could have been.

That is not to say that this isn't an entertaining film, it is. From the fistful of great performances from Robert Deniro, Anne Heche, Denis Leary, Willie Nelson, Woody Harrelson and especially Dustin Hoffman who seems to be relishing his role here, to the well played supporting roles filled out by the likes of William H. Macy, Craig T. Nelson, Kirsten Dunst et al 'Wag The Dog' has all the talent performing admirably. It also has a sharp, amusing script (by Hilary Henkin & David Mamet, based on the novel "American Hero" by Larry Beinhart) going for it and Barry Levinson's direction is top notch, but despite being quite entertaining, it also seems too slight by half, and just not focused or funny enough to quite make everything work successfully at the end of the day.

Regardless of it's flaws Wag The Dog is still a fun, well made and entertaining film that deserves to be seen and enjoyed, it just isn't quite able to reach the lofty peak that it aspires to. But just so long as you don't go in expecting an hilarious rib tickler of political satire it's a pretty fair bet that you will be suitably entertained.

One man's opinion. 7.5/10


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