Thank You for Smoking

Reviewed By Chris Wilson
Posted 04/02/06 18:46:41

"Not really edgy, just really funny."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Smokers, non-smokers and those who somehow fit in some third category: go out and see Thank You for Smoking. Donít be afraid; this movie wonít teach you anything you didnít already know about smoking or the tobacco industry. It works as well as it does because the film skewers those who attack big tobacco equally as those who defend it. Hollywood, humanitarians and Congress all receive pointed jabs. Equality hasnít felt so refreshing for a long time!

Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart, a great underrated actor when given the right material) is the master of charm and spin; heís the top lobbyist for big tobacco, getting this job not through a fancy PhD but because of a certain ďmoral flexibilityĒ he possesses. Heís not evil; heís just the spokesman for it. Naylor works as the vice president of a firm called the Academy of Tobacco Studies, a research group whose star scientist is so brilliant that he can manage to not find a connection between smoking and lung cancer. Throughout the film, Naylor juggles pushing forward the tobacco industryís goals and raising his 12 year old son, who uses his fatherís teachings to win school debates.

It made me unendingly happy that the film didnít force our hate-ably lovable hero to undergo a Jerry McGuire-esque moral awakening. In fact, despicable as he is, I pretty much want to be Nick Naylor. Heís the most genuine, smooth-talking anti-hero to come out of Hollywood in ages. The film lacks a certain bite due to its universally accepted premise but there are plenty of great scenes, such as when anti-tobacco extremists kidnap Naylor and try to murder him with an overdose of nicotine patches. They inadvertently turn him into a figure of public sympathy when he survives due to his advanced tolerance built up through years of smoking. Naylor even spins his unlikely survival: he tells the press nicotine saved his life.

The writing in Thank You for Smoking is wit and sarcasm at its best. The only thing more impressive in the film is the cast that delivers the lines. From J.K. Simmons as Naylorís unscrupulous boss (ďWe sell cigarettes. And they're cool and available and addictive. The job is almost done for us.Ē) to Sam Elliott as the former Marlboro Man, the cast is top notch and each fits their part amazingly well Ė except Katie Holmes as a seductive reporter. Maybe itís the fact that she looks like a teenager to me. Maybe itís that she canít act (proven to us before in Batman Begins, Phone Booth, The Gift, her relationship with Tom Cruise). Whatever it is, she was the only letdown in a movie with nothing but letÖups.

I canít imagine someone not enjoying this movie. Okay, I can. I understand that some people just donít like cynical humor, and the message of personal choice isnít for everyone Ė fascists and commies namely. Regardless, Thank You for Smoking is cleverly written, perfectly cast and well acted (if you ignore Katie Holmes any time she opens her mouth). Iím running out of adjectives here so I thought Iíd get this out of the way: this movie is a smoking satire! Pun intended, you know? Yeah, thatís why I really shouldnít be paid to write.

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