Wag the Dog
Since this film was released on Christmas Day to be eligible for Oscar consideration, I've had to sit around and listen to every half-wit film critic drone on about how great it is.
One of my general rules of thumb is that no movie with a script written by David Mamet can be the least bit tolerable. Mamet is a hack. He's one of those guys who couldn't care less about the structure of a movie, preferring to listen to the characters spew out his crafty dialogue until it starts sounding like Uncle Harold going on about his hemorrhoids for the fifth time. In this film, that character is film producer Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman). If Motss' eccentricities are even the least bit amusing in the beginning of the film, Mamet makes sure to suck the potential out of this character by the end of the film.
Motss is hired by a political spin doctor, Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro), to create a fake war to save the President from a scandal that threatens to ruin him before election day. Director Barry (Sleepers) Levinson follows Motss and Brean around as they manipulate everything in sight. We're all supposed to go "oooh, could this really happen?"
Maybe nobody has read the book upon which this film is based, Larry Beinhart's American Hero, but I have. The book is speculative fiction, using George Bush and Lee Atwater as actual characters and asserting that they manufactured the Gulf War. Levinson and crew have taken the edge right off the book, preferring to play it safe and make everything apolitical. Wag the Dog is nothing more than a gutless adaptation of somebody else's risky idea. Typical Hollywood.
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