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    Indie Flicks

    Slightly outrageous but altogether hilarious, Wag the Dog is a political comedy from 1998 that might be more relevant in today’s post-9/11 world than it was nearly a decade ago. The film uses a screen of satirical humor to expose in an over-the-top series of events how the government can use images to manipulate the way we Americans think, act, and most importantly, vote.


    Twelve days before the president is up for reelection, he is accused of having -sexual relations’ with a minor in a closet in the oval office. Sound familiar? Oddly enough, this film was written and made less than a year before the Lewinsky scandal shook the real White House.


    Desperate not to let the accusation ruin the president’s chances of a second term, head of press, Winifred Ames (Anne Heche), enlists the help of Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro), a spin doctor who has been diverting attention from presidential scandals since the Reagan administration. What does Brean have in mind to take the American people’s eyes away from their Head of State’s sexual misconduct? What else? A war… with Albania.


    In order to fabricate this war, Brean joins forces with Hollywood producer Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman). Motss puts together an elaborate production, complete with a theme song and iconic war hero. When all of these elements are brought together, the American public pulls together in support of an administration that is shamelessly pulling the wool over its eyes.


    Though overall the situations are outrageous and ultimately ridiculous, there’s a certain truth to be found in the story being told. There were countless moments during the film that one could identify not only with the Clinton sex scandal, but with the Bush administration’s handling of the current War in Iraq.


    The movie does not make a target of either Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservations. The bull’s eye is fixed on the forehead of a government that will go to any lengths to shamelessly fool its constituents in order to stay in power. So basically, the target is any government.


    The film is full of fast-talking characters and quick-cutting camera shots. This not only sets the pace of the movie, but also draws the comparison between the handling of a completely fictitious story and the speed at which a government covers up its blemishes.


    The ironic sensibility in Wag the Dog is not only sharp and funny, but ultimately thought provoking. Though the film is packed with notable actors from De Niro and Heche to William H. Macy, Dennis Leary, and a young Kirsten Dunst, Hoffman stole the show. He plays Motss with an overwhelming humanity that takes the comedic role and turns him into someone the audience can sympathize with. Yes, he’s helping to conduct a sinister plot to hoodwink the American people, but for him, there is no political gain. For him, it is about the art, and Hoffman makes this not only understandable, but respectable.


    Wag the Dog is powerful in its clever, irreverent criticism of the government as well as America‘s gullibility, or perhaps willingness to be fooled into submission. But on top of it being a wonderfully intelligent film, it’s also good for a lot of laughs.

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