A smart and satirical look at big tobacco and politics, "Thank You for Smoking" stars Aaron Eckhart, an actor I've never been very fond of, in his break-out role as a man who has been so consumed with the lying and manipulation he does for a living that he has essentially turned himself into a wide-eyed ball of innocence - even if it is all artificial.
"Thank You for Smoking" follows the life of one Nick Naylor, the head lobbyist for the tobacco industry. His job is to convince Americans that smoking is not bad for you and that all young people should smoke. His job is a morally questionable one at best, but is still something that at least sparks the interest of his young son, played by forever-creepy Cameron Bright. As Nick travels around the country trying to convince an anti-smoking senator (William H. Macy) from Vermont that placing a poison label on cigarettes is not needed and attempting to land a big deal with a Hollywood producer (Rob Lowe) to get Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta Jones to have a passionate love scene together in a zero gravity atmosphere while making smoke circles, he rarely questions his motives. But, when a beautiful young reporter (hot yet mildly crazy both in character and in real life Katie Holmes) starts writing a story about him, will he be able to maintain his "integrity?"
The movie succeeds on many levels, most prominently in the comedy department. Funny from beginning to end, but not without its few dull moments, "Thank You" works in a straight-to-the-point kind of way. The dialogue is terrific and jokes are handled perfectly by writer/director Jason Reitman. There are no jokes that seemed to go without a laugh; none miss the mark.
The movie does have its few moments where it tries to be serious rather than completely satirical, and I have to wonder if the movie would have worked a bit better without these parts. For the most part, "Thank You" balances its serious issues with satirical comedy quite well, but every once in a while focuses in a bit too much on the serious aspects. The movie never loses its entertainment value, but does occasionally lose its extra spark.
A few plot points are also left undeveloped. Namely, I felt the relationship, no matter how artificial, between Eckhart and Holmes should have been more developed, as well as the storyline where Eckhart gets kidnapped and tagged with dozens of nicotine patches. A lot of the movie seemed overly-edited, in that there were just little parts that were cut out due to pacing or comedy that perhaps could have explained a bit more. It will be interesting to see what the DVD holds...
"Thank You for Smoking" is a deliciously funny satire with a great cast and a good story. It is nice to finally see Eckhart come into his prime; this is the first movie I've really liked him in. The movie is not without its flaws, but it is certainly one of the better pictures of the spring.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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