Wag The Dog (1997)

(In theaters, January 1998) Let’s face it: January’s a rotten month for first-run moviegoing. It’s either shlocko-B-Grade-late-night-TV fare dumped by the studios in the middle of the winter because there’s got to be something on the screens during the month, or else a few Oscar hopeful released late in December in a few major markets for academy consideration, and who get wider release in January. Among them… Wag The Dog. An American president is accused of sexual misconduct with a young female. One crack spin doctor gets on the case and diverts the attention of the public with threats of war. A Hollywood producer is hired. It ain’t real-life, although in Mid-January 1998, we could almost feel ourselves being pulled slowly in a Phil K. Dick novel where current events were being uncannily predicted by Hollywood. Wag The Dog will probably pass into history as being at the right places at exactly the right time, but fortunately the movie remains decent on its own terms. Unfortunately, the script isn’t as good as it could have been. The unlikeliness of the described situation -despite the above paragraph, I stand by the word “unlikeliness”- is such that a deliberately over-the-top treatment (à la, heh-heh-heh, The Producers) would have been vastly more successful. To put it simply, Wag The Dog‘s premise is neat but doesn’t have a lot of relevance. So why try? On the other hand, Dustin Hoffman is quite funny after a while, and Anne Heche does a fine bit of window-dressing. If Robert DeNiro is a bit dull (intentionally), Dennis Leary and William H. Macy are great during their short screen time. I liked it, but it’s far from being one of my favorite films of 1997.

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