"Thank You for Smoking"
Directed by Jason Reitman.
Written by Jason Reitman. Based on the novel by Christopher
Starring Aaron Eckhart, Cameron Bright, Maria Bello and David
Release Year: 2006
Review Date: 3/29/06
I thought about this one for a couple hours
after coming out of the theater tonight; I was on the fence between
a Matinee and a $9.50 Show.
See, "Thank You for Smoking"--a satire based
on a novel by Christopher Buckley--takes aim at Big Tobacco with
mixed results. Aaron Eckhart, normally confined to Background
Everyman status in big flicks like
Brockovich" and "The Core", plays tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor,
a man seemingly without a conscience that happily makes his money
promoting cigarettes without promoting smoking, if that makes
sense...he wants you to buy the products his companies make, as long
as no one points the finger at him for people dying from smoking as
a lifestyle. Along with his lobby buddies, alcohol frontwoman
Polly (Maria Bello) and firearms frontman Billy Jay (David Koechner,
most notably from
"Anchorman"), the three friends take their issues to the press
and check their standards at the door. When Nick's company
asks him to press the positive "cool" effects of smoking in major
Hollywood productions, Nick and his son Joey (Cameron Bright,
risking overexposure) head to LA to meet with a wacko
Asian-motif-loving superagent (Rob Lowe) to promote his nicotine
agenda even further.
And other subplots are thrown in for good
measure. Here's where I was stuck: "Thank You for
Smoking" should be a great film, bordering on legendary, given the
main issue this film follows, a stellar cast, directing lineage that
should serve us well (director Jason Reitman is the son of the man
that gave us, oh, "Stripes", "Ghostbusters" and
"Old School" as
an exec producer) and a fairly cool production. Instead, the
film never quite gets there, even though I do remember laughing hard
every so often and enjoying random, off-the-wall shit like Adam
Brody as the superagent's assistant.
Why aren't parts by William H. Macy, Sam
Elliott, and Robert Duvall any better? We get good mileage out
of Koechner, JK Simmons (Peter Parker's boss from the "Spider-Man"
films) and Katie Holmes as a dirty beat writer, but in general,
these performances didn't quite do it for me. I actually
didn't get into the father-son exchanges played out by Eckhart and
Bright; I can see the dramatic angle of presenting us with a man
that is challenged by his profession and trying to teach his kid the
best way to move through life, but again, the idea is great, the
execution felt so-so. Part of this was the fact that the film
starts with Joey hating his father's job, and about 20 screen
minutes later, Joey is trying to hang out with his daddy all the
fucking time. Nope, don't buy it.
But in the end, I think that "Thank You for
Smoking" is a movie you should see, one that I'm glad I caught, and
one that has enough laughs to give a (barely) $9.50 Show to just
because of little things, like having kids say words like "tramp."
And, hopefully, this movie will get at least one more person in this
world to drop cigarettes altogether, which I have to hope was one of
the goals of the film to begin with. Maybe.
Rating: $9.50 Show
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard