Thursday, June 18, 2015

Wag the Dog (1997)


Director: Barry Levinson
Writers:  Larry Beinhart, Hilary Henkin, David Marnet
Cast:       Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Anne Heche


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. Robert De Niro plays the role of spin-doctor while Dustin Hoffman is the Hollywood producer. The film was released one month before the outbreak of the Clinton-Monica Lewinsky sex scandal and the subsequent bombing of the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan by the Clinton administration prompted the media to draw comparisons between the film and reality. It is a loose adaptation of Larry Beinhart's novel 'American Hero'.

I read somewhere that when Tarantino screened Reservoir Dogs somewhere, he warned the audience that those who enjoyed Rain Man among them are advised to leave since his film is not for them. I don't know if there is any truth to that story but I do enjoy Tarantino films and I did enjoy Rain Man when I saw it some years back. That one was also directed by Barry Levinson and is the right kind of feel-good film that I actually enjoyed watching. He had also directed Sleepers which also featured both Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro and was a decent watch. But I found it really difficult to finish this film of his which was quite well-received upon its release. It did have a fortunate timing due to the events after its release. The film is like a cynical take on how things are spun and presented in American politics and it does so with the subtlety of bashing someone's head repeatedly with a baseball bat. It is like Disney version of 'In The Loop'. It got academy awards nomination for its screenplay and maybe the element of it being a film depicting some Hollywood producer swung it for them. They do have a habit of conferring things on such kind of films and films like Argo and The Artist are examples for the same. Dustin Hoffman also got nominated and it must have been a poor year. Then again, one shouldn't take academy awards too seriously.

To sum up, the film is a terrible watch despite boasting a stellar cast list. It did have an interesting theme which should resonate because of things like how consensus was built for Iraq-War but the whole planned thing of planting stories with great perfection didn't really do it for me. The humor in it is also not the kind I like and I prefer much more of sweary darkness. The film's success proves that there are plenty of people who enjoy the kind of humor that is there in this film. The performances from the cast are nothing spectacular to write home about and it is filmed in a very 90s Hollywood style (Think Natural Born Killers, JFK etc) of which I am not a big fan of.

Rating: 1.5/5