Can a Presidential-Election Movie with an Incredible Cast Hold Up to the Test of Time?
Posted 11.05.12 by Mandy
"What did television ever do to you?"
"It destroyed the electoral process."
During Christmas of '97, tamagotchis were the season's hot toys, Bill Clinton was in office, and a movie about a president involved in a sex scandal during an election was in theaters. Wag the Dog features Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman at the top of their game and boasts an Oscar-nominated screenplay from David Mamet, but is that enough to make it timeless?
The Verdict: No. Oddly enough, this pitch-perfect dark satire doesn't hold up.
During an election season, a movie about manipulating a presidential race seems like it would feel timely and be a good choice for a rental. Even though all the elements of Wag the Dog are spot on, it just doesn't work in 2012. Really though, any movie about a fake war with terrorists being manufactured by a Hollywood big-wig in order to win votes for a sitting president wouldn't sit right in the midst of an on-going and very real war on terror.
Here at Reelz we’ve developed a formula to determine the Longevity Index for a movie and it (pseudo-) scientifically finds whether or not a movie will hold up after several years. Here's how Wag the Dog scored:
P=8 This has a solid plot with plenty of twists and turns as a team attempts to divert attention away from a sex scandal involving the President of the United States and a teenage girl.
S=10 The script is air tight with great dialogue and believable characters.
D=5 This movie is dated, but more for it's overlying sensibility rather than specific design elements.
T=10 Wag the Dog is a movie that really only could have been made between 1996 and 2001. It is so firmly of that period that, while it might not have felt terribly topical at the time, it doesn't translate to a different era.
U=68 While manipulation and deception are ideas and that can be universally understood, the life and worldview of an A-list Hollywood producer isn't going to be accessible or interesting to every viewer.
Wag the Dog's LI = 82
All the elements of a great movie are here, and it is sure to be a worthwhile watch for anyone studying acting or dramatic writing, but for the average viewer, this flick has passed it's expiration date. Perhaps forty years from now it will be revered as a classic, but it doesn't hold up during this election cycle.
Video and photo courtesy New Line Cinema.