"Wag the Dog" Review
© 1998 Fontaine L.

"Why does a dog wag its tail? Because it is smarter than its tail. If a tail were smarter than the dog, then it would wag the dog."

This movie is laiden with such rich irony, hidden themes, and double entendres, it is sometimes tedious to view. What makes the movie outstanding also makes it unbearable, perhaps, to people like me who are used to movies that actually have a climax. "Wag the Dog" proceeds in an endless straight line -- we know we're supposed to be getting somewhere, but our goal never enters the horizon. Luckily, there is enough humor in this movie to keep us from utterly giving up -- but not enough to keep a tired student awake. The elegant but slow-paced soundtrack certainly doesn't help. Seldom do these characters talk in any pitch but low, hushed, whispers; and seldom does anything stray into a surprising path. The whole plot has been established already for those who've seen the preview, so that may have contributed to the lack of climax. We knew what would happen. Meanwhile, the screenwriter(s) deliver irony and humor line by line - this is Hollywood dialogue at its best. The actors from Robert Deniro, Dustin Hoffman, to William H. Macy deliver superb performances with effortless ease (of course - what else did I expect?); and the editors and cinematographers paste together beautiful scenes with such affluence that it seems as if you were there, witnessing the scenes unfolding before you, but interpreting them in your own way. Yet the movie was like a great episode of television extended too long in the same tone and same pace; and even though there are true gems in this movie satirizing politics, the media, and public gullibility (a theme similar to that of "Being There"), it could have done much more if it could keep the viewer engrossed. That's not to say I didn't like this movie - I loved almost every bit of it, but as I said, some of you out there may find it dull, especially if you don't understand the American cultural or political scenes very well.

Rating: B+ (First viewing, 1/16/98)