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"Thank You for Smoking"

Directed by Jason Reitman.
Written by Jason Reitman.  Based on the novel by Christopher Buckley.
Starring Aaron Eckhart, Cameron Bright, Maria Bello and David Koechner.
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 "Erin 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


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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 "Office Space"). 

"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, 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 half stars." 

"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 Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09