Wag the Dog (1997)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Political Satire, Media Satire  |   Release Date - Dec 25, 1997 (USA)  |   Run Time - 96 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Barry Levinson filmed this dead-on political satire in a mere 29 days, working from David Mamet and Hilary Henkin's smart adaptation of the Larry Beinhart novel American Hero. Wag the Dog came out not long before the nation found out about its own President's sexual misconduct; the prophetic script gets its laughs not from outlandish fantasy, but from the realization that it's only marginally removed from plausibility. The fake war the movie cooks up, for example, is set in the real nation of Albania, and the viewer is challenged to accept the characters' convictions that the American public doesn't know or even care where Albania is. The cast is excellent, led by Dustin Hoffman's hilarious send-up of a Hollywood producer and Robert De Niro's devious spin doctor. Even the minor characters entertain: Willie Nelson is great in his small role as a songwriter, and Woody Harrelson makes an appearance as a crazy-eyed vet.