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Parents' Guide to

Wag the Dog

By Heather Boerner, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Entertaining, creepily resonant political comedy.

Movie R 1997 110 minutes
Wag the Dog Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 11+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 12+

Haven't had this much fun since live TV!

Every political satire I've watched requires some engagement to seem plausible, except this one. Wag the Dog is the only one of its kind that contains just enough realistic weight to be uncomfortably realistic. You will laugh out loud, and feel that all things make a lot of sense without wondering. Also, it doesn't try to be bitter and harsh as other satirical movies do. In fact, it's always fluffy and warm, and that makes the movie quiet ironical in its own. Especially, because it's very very painfully relevant. All the actors delivered terrific performances, and there is superb chemistry between every actor and another, even who have smaller roles. Needless to say, Robert De Niro is great. But Dustin Hoffman is who steals the show. Hoffman gave one of the best performances in his entire career. Actually, I will put his performance in Wag the Dog right after the performance that made him a household name in The Graduate. But let's put that off till I watch Rain Man. Woody Harrelson also has a small role in this movie, and although his character in not very interesting, especially because it was in the weakest part of the movie when it dragged a little bit, Harrelson's impeccable performance is not to blame. Every single subtle trick in Wag the Dog makes you burst out laughing. And the movie takes advantage of all these tricks and small details until the credits roll. It never wastes any clever joke that made you laugh, and uses it again in a more clever way to make you laugh over it again and again. Barry Levinson's direction is so smart, clever and slick. He made the movie fast-paced and that was a good decision, but I think he could have concentrated on the funniest moments in the movie to make them more pleasant, and to make them memorable not only funny. I have kinda the same issue with one of my all-time favorite movies, The Graduate. (I think Mike Nichols should have focused on the drama more than he did.) The political commentary was a little on-the-nose at first but Barry Levinson's wit direction outweighed this little issue from the beginning. And the result is one of, if not the funniest political satire movie I've ever seen. (8.5/10)
age 10+

Review correction

Just wanted to point out an error in your "Is it any good?" section. You say that the government from George orwells "1984" is corrupt. It is not corrupt, it runs exactly as it is intended to. While it is in no way humane or ethical that is how it is supposed to be with oceania, eastasia, and eurasia supporting eachother by fighting a literally endless "war" and all of them using their own forms of "Doublethink" to opress the common people and keep the leaders in power. It's a depressing story but the government works cleanly, efficiently and is very good at what it dose, even if what it dose is terrible.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (2 ):
Kids say (1 ):

Leaving the politics of the film aside, it's very well done. DeNiro is clearly having a great time playing a political mastermind dressed as a college professor, and Hoffman is irresistible as the megalomaniacal producer who's always got a story of how producing a movie is harder than producing a war. Once you get past the eerie feeling that you're watching voter fraud with a happy soundtrack, Wag the Dog is quite enjoyable.

In the book 1984, George Orwell created a world in which a corrupt government controls its people with campaigns of fear and ever-rotating wars against shadowy enemies. WAG THE DOG shows how that kind of corruption could be played out in the TV age. This film will be forever steeped in the world of Clinton and Monica Lewinski and the attack on Somalia for those who saw it in the theater in the late '90s. But it's oddly resonant in the early '00s as well, in a world of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, ever-shifting wars on terrorism, elusive Osama Bin Laden, and Guantanamo Bay.

Movie Details

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