Wag the Dog: the black comedy by Barry Levenson

Wag the Dog

Wag the Dog

Wag the Dog is a black comedy from 1997 produced and directed by Barry Levenson. The film stars by Dustin Hoffman and Robert de Niro, with supporting actors Anne Heche, Dennis Leary, and William H. Macy.

The movie tells the story of a Washington D.C. spin doctor, played by de Niro, who hires a film producer, played by Hoffman, to fabricate a fake war with Albania. This was some days before the election and was a move to draw the electorate´s attention from a presidential sex scandal.

The plot

Less than two weeks before the election, a sex scandal has tainted the President of the United States chances to win the election.  Washington´s best spin doctor, Conrad Brean (De Niro) is pointed to divert attention to something else.  So he goes to Hollywood´s best producer, Stanley Motts (Hoffman) to help him create a fake war with Albania.

When CIA learns about it, they send Agent Young (Macy) to confront Brean, who convinces him that revealing the truth is against his best interest.  Finally, the CIA has to announce the end of such war but keeps the truth from the public.  Attention goes back to the President so Brean decides to create the story of a war hero that was left behind.

The Pentagon provides him a soldier named Schuman (Harrelson) to be such soldier. Motts ignores some setbacks on the story resting assured on his experience.  The team discovers that Schuman is actually a criminally insane Army prison convict.  Their plane crashes and they land close to a farm.  The farmer brings them in, Schuman tries to rape the farmer’s daughter and kills him.  Brean uses this to tell America the soldier died from wounds.

The President wins but Motts does not like that everyone is crediting The President´s win on a campaign slogan instead of his hard work. Motts decides he wants to go public, but Brean threatens him.  Motts goes on, Brean gets him killed and makes it look like a heart attack.


Wag the Dog had a good reception. It has a rating of 7.3/10 in Rotten Tomatoes.  The critical consensus on the movie reads: “Smart, well-acted, and uncomfortably prescient political satire from director Barry Levinson and an all-star cast.”

The Internet Movie Database grants Wag the Dog a score of 7.1/10 based on 69,762 reviews.

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