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Wag the Dog
Academy Award® Nominee
A Hollywood producer. A Washington spin-doctor. When they get together, they can make you believe anything.

Starring Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Willie Nelson...  View more >

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Reviews Summary

Please Note: Reader Reviews are submitted by the readers of The BigScreen Cinema Guide and represent their own personal opinions regarding this movie, and do not represent the views of The BigScreen Cinema Guide, or any of its associated entities.

Jan 25, 2000
First of all...I didn't like it. One thing that I can say right off the bat is that I was surprised to see a striking similarity between this film and the Titanic...both were disaster sank in the ocean, the other in the theaters. I read that this film was completed in just four weeks...well, we can definitely see the product of their efforts. Even if you are a die hard political fan, who enjoys watching C-Span as much as I do, or plans on having a "State of the Union" party rather than a "Superbowl" will be bored! It was like watching the movie "Dave" without Dave. The more I write the more I think I hated it....but I am not going back up to change my initial "first of all". With regard to putting strong actors together, Dustin Hoffman & Robert DeNiro should be barred from working together in the future, they just didn't mesh. Bottom line...I am not pulling your leash when I say the title should be changed to "Ran Over the Dog".

[--- Wait for Rental ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
I thought this movie was a timely piece of political conspiracy paranoia that was funny in parts and well done. That being said, I also saw no reason to see it on the big screen as I'm sure the message would lend itself to the TV just as well.

[--- Wait for Rental ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Although I was highly anticipating 'Wag the Dog' I have to admit a reluctant let down after actually seeing the movie. De Niro was well suited for his character of Conrad Brean, a fixer upper for the president. And Denis Leary, Willie Nelson and Andrea Martin all did well as the 'creatives' who actually try to fix the problem. My highest disappointment came from Dustin Hoffman, which completely surprised me. I can only start to guess that as a method actor, he got into his character a little too much, and didn't share what he found out with the audience. As Stanley Motss he was pompous (what you expect from a Hollywood producer) and a little to exacting (not what I was expecting from the character.) There were inconsistencies throughout his character that I just had a hard time dealing with. It was truly his performance that makes me rate it 'Wait for video.' The rest of the cast is wonderful, and Kirsten Dunst plays the perfect new actress looking out for her own best interests. Perhaps if you are truly a Hoffman fan, you can look past his own interpretation of his character and really enjoy the movie. I also think that seeing this movie in light of the recent Clinton scandal would be a little more fun than when I saw it. Even now I half wonder at what is being covered up at the White House and by whom. Well, if it says that the nation is going to war soon, we'll just have to make sure that we know what Dustin Hoffman is doing at all times.

[--- Wait for Rental ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
The movie was OK, but there are some aspects that just don't work. Logical inconsistencies such as where the airplane pilots go after the crash are annoying. DiNero and Hoffman put in decent performances, but the others are blobs. Some nice commentary on politics and news, but not as funny as you are lead to believe by most reviewers.

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Delightful! As a comment on today's politics & government cover-ups, right on the mark. Humor is both broad & subtle: listen carefully to the lyrics of the first song Willie Nelson composes for "the war."; enjoy Woody Harrelson's new persona; marvel at master-actor Dustin Hoffman's ability to create yet another memorable character.

Maybe not for everyone: no violence, steamy sex, burning-building special effects. It's literate, timely, wicked, but mostly good dirty-dealing fun!

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
If this movie were compressed into a 30 minute time slice it would be enjoyable, but as a full length feature -- no way! Be prepared for long dry spells and a predictable story once the plot has been established. My wife and I agreed that this was the dullest movie we've been to in a long, long time. Save your money.

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
"Why does a dog wag its tail?" "Because if a dog didn't wag its tail, the tail would wag the dog," This is the opening coda for Barry Levinson's best film, "Wag the Dog," a political classic that is the 90's equivalent to the masterpiece, "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb."

The film begins like a blast of a shotgun. Within the first few moments of the movie, we already learn that there is a sex scandal unfolding in the White House. Enter Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro), Washington's top spin doctor to help take attention away from this. The plan: to fake a war in Albania. Brean and his assistant (Anne Heche) travel to L.A. to enlist a producer's (Dustin Hoffman) help in staging a mock-war.

What follows is an amazing feat of fake newscasts and war footage that looks so real even I would have been led into it. The funniest scene comes when a young girl (Kirsten Dunst) is told to run against a blue screen, holding a bag of chips. The effect being done is a young Albanian girl running across a burning bridge holding a kitten (!) while in the background guns and missiles are going off.

I'll stop it there, since the film is so amazing and even honest (it even has time to get personal with its characters, and that is something for a 96 minute film like this) that it as hypnotic as Kubrick was, and will always be.

Grade: A

Tech Review:

Picture: 3 An all right picture that is fuzzy throughout, good blacks and colors, but wanting in contrast and clearness.

Sound: 2.5 Basically a mono film, there is only one noticeable split surround, and no surrounds througout the rest. Not even Mark Knopfler's great score comes through.

Photography: 5 Even though the film is shot in 1.85:1, the camera goes nuts, from left to right, up and down. The whole thing is shot documentary style, which is plus for a movie like this. Watch for the wild zooming shots halfway through. They really get the adrenaline pumping.

Length: 96 minutes. Rated R for language and mild violence.

[--- Wait for Rental ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
This movie had such great reviews, but I was a little disappointed. Though it threw in a punchline here and there, the rest moved slowly. The intrigue was lacking. Throwing Woody Harrelson into the mix was a great touch. It was totally unexpected. But the rest of the movie is just mostly dialogue, and though much of it is good dialogue, it takes a little more than two hours of people talking to make a memorable movie. The part about the Albanian girl was good. But I left the theater thinking the movie was a bit lackluster.

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
I did not like this movie much at all... The movie rides on the names of the actors. They are good -- how could they not be -- but the plot sucks. It is not funny, and it hits a little too close to the whole Monica Lewinski vs. Sadam Hussein thing to be entertaining... and the way it all ends... well let me just say BLEGH! and leave it at that. This movie is not even worth renting.

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Considering that this movie was filmed in four weeks, it's incredible to me how amazing it turned out. "Wag the Dog" is, hands down, absolutely the best political satire to come out of the nineties (not that that's saying a whole lot). It was even better than "Dave", a personal fave of mine. Barry Levinson combined a witty script, ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT actors, and some phenomenal timing to create a timely, well-crafted piece of criticism about America and its values. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Dustin Hoffman is the best actor around anywhere. This is his best performance: better than "Rain Man", better than "Kramer vs. Kramer", even better than "Tootsie", which is generally considered his masterpiece as an actor. DeNiro's no slouch, either, of course. Every subtle gesture or facial tic he has in this movie has meaning. It's one of his subtlest performances, and definitely one of his best. In conclusion, go see "Wag the Dog". You don't want to miss out on what film historians will be calling a masterpiece twenty years from now.

[--- Good ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
I managed to catch this movie before it escaped my geographical viewing area and saw it in one of the smallest theaters in Wisconsin on a Sunday matinee. If I told you that I did not laugh out loud once ... NOT ONCE ... you could easily say that it wasn't funny. But that would not be true. It holds your interest and the outrageous characters in the movie are believable ... WHY? because art reflects life and this is probably one of the sharper reflections of our political life barring PRIMARY COLORS (which should also be interesting but a no laugh-out-loud amusing). Stories too close to the truth can be funny. It is more often interesting. If you ever wondered why people have always said, "You can't let the tail WAG THE DOG," go catch this movie - rental will work fine.

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Yeah, I know it's got a stupid title, but it explains all that in the movie. Let me tell yah, this movie was excellent. I never got bored. It was a movie with a lot of laughs and then a little heart on top of everything. Don't walk, run to the theatre to see this movie!

May 12, 2003
"Wag the Dog" is a political comedy about spin doctors and what they do in case of a emergencey. Case in point: The president is having an affair and it's up to a Hollywood producer to make things real. Dustin Hoffman gave a good performance as the Hollywood producer. In one very intresting scene, Hoffman made comparison between votong for the Academy Awards and voting for the presidential election.

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