Movie Review, Wag the Dog(Bite the Bullet), directed by Barry Levinson

By MILT GROSS | Dec 03, 2013

This is one of the strangest movies I’ve ever viewed.

The tale is so weird it couldn’t ever be true. Yet it mirrors today’s headlines, which makes me wonder if it could, in fact, be true. The major problem is the President’s sexual adventures, and the story is how spinmaster Conrad Brean, played by Robert De Niro, spins and creates a yarn to cover the problems of the President, how the fictional sidetrack cover-up seems so real to millions of people, and the final demise via bad guys of Brean when, at the end, he won’t quit spinning a tale.

It is not difficult to guess which President’s real-life sex scandal likely led to the making of this 1997 110-minute movie, but the real-life Presidential dilemma is never mentioned. After all, Wag the Dog is a fiction tale. It’s not clear if the story is a tragedy due to the spinmaster’s death that is not shown but led up to and assumed, a comedy due to the antics throughout, or a comedy because it leaves you laughing while astounded.

At the beginning, not the biblical “in the beginning,” is the sex scandal, which the White House crew knows needs a distraction since the President’s reelection bid is two weeks away. The spinmaster is aided in the distraction plot by Hollywood producer Stanley Motss, played by Dustin Hoffman.

Via TV cameras and world-wide news coverage, the fictional cover-up is realistic, becoming more and more complicated as it goes.

Written by Hilary Henkin and David Mamet, the movie is described by Netflx as....”this biting look at American politics and its insidious relationship with the media.”

Other characters are played by Anne Heche, Denis Leary, Willie Nelson, Andrea Martin, Kirsten Dunst, William H. Macy, Woody Harrelsosn, John Michael Higgins, Suzie Plakson, and Craig T. Nelson along with the crowds nearly always there in the background.

While I never hope to see a real-life version of this tale, I strongly recommend your finding a copy of this DVD and grabbing snacks for a wide-awake evening of fine, though somewhat frightening, entertainment.

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2013

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