If you know me, you know I have a lot of DVDs. There’s a good chunk of them I’ve had for a long time but have never watched. This is actually why I decided to do this experiment. Wag the Dog is one of these movies. I’ve probably had this DVD for almost 10 years and never watched it until today.
Wag the Dog, starring Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman, Anne Heche, Willie Nelson, and Woody Harrelson, is a political satire directed by Barry Levinson and was released on Christmas Day in 1997. In it, the U.S. president (who is never actually seen on camera throughout the entire movie) is accused of sexual misconduct with a young “firefly girl” a few weeks before election day. Robert DeNiro and Anne Heche’s characters are on a mission to distract the public from this scandal for just enough time to get the president reelected. With the help of a Hollywood producer (Dustin Hoffman), they create a fake war with Albania, and to crudely summarize, it seems to do the trick.
I’d like to add this movie was based on the 1993 novel, American Hero, written by Larry Beinhart, and the movie hit theaters nationwide just a few weeks before the Clinton scandal broke and less than 4 years before the 9/11 attacks. In 1997 this movie may have been seen as absurd, but in 2021, it’s a little too on the nose. Too many events from the last 23+ years feel like they could’ve been a scene in this movie. After 4 years of a Trump presidency, it’s hard to imagine a single day without a scandal. As a matter of fact, news broke today of Trump’s phone call with the Georgia Secretary of State asking him to find more votes. The sad part is he doesn’t even need to distract people at this point.
All that to say, this is a really good movie, and I’m glad I watched it. It’s just kind of hard to laugh at it right now. Here’s a scene where Dustin Hoffman’s character is producing some Albanian war footage.
(SIDE NOTE: Editing doesn’t not work this way. If you ever hire an editor, don’t expect them to just swap things in and out in 2 seconds.)