Reviews ...

Whale of a Dog's Tale

... In video: Make war, not love ...

Movie Review by Morris Wattenberg

Perversity is the style with the newish video "Wag the Dog", evident even in its title. With Willie Nelson hired to do the randy lyrics of a patriotic song, the President's creative team finds him inappropriate and launches on a full-blown military march tune.

Decisions of this kind are called into play to mitigate a presidential scandal. Eventually, a fabricated war fits the bill of distraction. It's made clear how artificial these procedures are. A burly Robert DeNiro, the camera focused over his shoulder, is the chief spin doctor. Creativity as well as perversity are the inspirations for Dustin Hoffman, movie producer who boasts of having once rewritten "Moby Dick" from "the viewpoint of the whale!"

The business of rewriting scripts stems from the immediacy of needing new material at a moment's notice in creating a war in Albania, though none of those involved have been there or knows anything about it -- nor do "their" Albanians. Cinematographer Richard Robertson refurbishes the experience in Vietnam, exemplified by the horrific shot of the young girl seared by napalm, running down the street.

In bits and pieces, the movie turns comic. An addled Woody Harrelson figures in the attempt to find an instant war hero for the public eye. There's a sense of team effort from director Barry Levinson, writers David Mamet and Hilary Henkin and the cast in bringing to the fore the fakery that can accompany policy.

It all seems fabricated until you recall the jingoistic campaign waged by publisher William Randolph Hearst that led to the Spanish American War.


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