Wag the Dog

08  MAY
Why does a dog wag its tail? Because a dog is smarter than its tail.
If the tail was smarter, the tail would wag the dog.

Directed by  Barry Levinson
Written by  Larry Beinhart, Hilary Henkin, David Mamet
Starring:  Dustin Hoffman (Stanley Motss)
Robert De Niro (Conrad Brean)
Anne Heche (Winifred Ames)
Willie Nelson (Johnny Dean)
Craig T. Nelson (Senator Neal)
Woody Harrelson (Sgt. William Schumann)
Runtime: 96 minutes

I read many good reviews of this movie but they were all written by american people so I wasn't sure that I could appreciate it. Instead, even considering that it is clearly thought for an american audience, I did really enjoy it, probably also because I have been able to see it from a different perspective that made everything appear even more silly that what it was designed to be!

The story deals with a scandal involving the President of the United States (which looks very similar to the real events although it is worth noting that the movie has been filmed before that facts became public) and shows how a few presidential advisors managed to distract the people by 'manufacturing' a fake war with Albania! All the movie is based on these people giving a few vague but aimed information to the mass-media, spreading artificial images and recordings, writing emotional songs and inventing fake war heroes.

This idea is absolutely original and brilliant, the situations seem to be a bit exaggerated but the events still seem very likely. Everything results in a very entertaining movie featuring a lot of memorable scenes, for example a phone call to the White House to instruct the spokesman who was answering to the journalists' questions live on TV.

A strong point of the movie are the actors. Not only Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman are terribly good in their roles but there are also a couple of small but funny characters such as Woody Harrelson playing an unlikely war hero and Willie Nelson playing a famous song writer! It's worth noting that the President is not played by anyone, his face is never shown clearly since he is always shown from a long distance or from the rear or seen through low quality TV shots; while this is not a completely new idea, it is still a very good choice!

There are no really negative points against this movie, its main fault, from the point of view of an italian, is that everything is obviously too american! Moreover, the italian version is somewhat ruined by a very stupid title ("Sex and Power") that also made the initial explanation of the meaning of "wag the dog" rather pointless. The subtitles shown during some (but surprisingly not all) of the specifically written songs are useful for people who can't understand english but are rather distracting and spoils some of the 'magic' of the movie.

Rating: 7.5  ****

Links:  Official Site




© Copyright Sergio Monesi, 1997-1999.
Last updated: 25 Jun 1999