Despite the snap, crackle, and pop of satire in comedy clubs across the country, few recent movies have been bold enough to mine this genre. Wag the Dog is a clever, audacious, and thought-provoking satire directed by Barry Levinson. Adapted by David Mamet and Hilary Henkin from Larry Beinhart's novel American Hero, the drama revolves around the efforts of Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro), a political consultant, to create a distraction that will keep the media from focusing on a sexual indiscretion committed by the President (Michael Belson) two weeks before election day. With the help of Stanley Moss (Dustin Hoffman), a Hollywood producer with a prodigious ego, this celebrated spin doctor orchestrates a national crisis beginning with a possible war against Albania. Also helping in the creation of this ever-expanding fabrication are two trend analysts (Denis Leary and Andrea Martin) and a songwriter (Willie Nelson). Anne Heche is featured as a cool presidential aide who grows more frenzied as the spin doctor's scheme spins out of control.
Wag the Dog explores how the deliberate creation of unreality has become one of the most salient aspects of life in our times. Television and other vehicles of mass communication and entertainment have degraded and debased national discourse. The end result, as Wag the Dog indicates, is a society that is less and less able to deal with its true problems.