Rated R, 97 minutes
Conrad Brean (De Niro) is a master strategist for the president – finding ways to divert media attention from the commander-in-chief’s major foibles. Just days before election night, news of a sex scandal breaks, threatening the president’s try for a second term. Conrad decides to stage a full-fledged war to get it out of the headlines. Enlisting the help of major Hollywood producer Stanley Motss (Hoffman), America locks horns with who-cares-what-country on the soundstages of Tinseltown. Challenging candidate Senator Neal makes it hard for the team to just march back to Oval Office; so the lies get even more twisted.
This movie is loaded with familiar faces. Kirsten Dunst plays the extra in some faked war footage. Denis Leary appears as what could best be termed a co-producer alongside Dustin Hoffman’s character. Top Five faithfuls will probably recognize oft-seen bit part players David Koechner and John Michael Higgins. Not to mention William H. Macy and Woody Harrelson and Jim Belushi...
Motss’ credo of “this is nothing!” is great, and wormed its way into my brain by the end of the movie. The situation presented is pretty convoluted by itself, making anything in this film’s world plausible. The blasé attitude of the characters – faking everything and anything, and letting the viewer know this isn’t the first time this has happened – adds to the humor.
Overall, Wag the Dog was entertaining and funny without wowing me in a huge way. I didn’t really pick out anything resembling a flaw while watching, which has pretty much been my textbook definition of...
...out of five. You can’t accuse this one of dragging – things pretty much jump into the main story right after the opening credits, and the pace virtually never lets up. A very worthy rental, especially if you like political humor.