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Overall Rating

Awesome: 31.68%
Worth A Look42.57%
Average: 7.92%
Pretty Bad: 6.93%
Total Crap: 10.89%

11 reviews, 35 user ratings

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Thank You for Smoking
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by brianorndorf

"I'd rather chew the gum"
1 stars

“Thank You for Smoking” is a flashy satire; quick with a gag and purportedly written with intelligence. Yet, for a comedy, the film is without a single moment of hilarity. A mile-wide, baffling misfire, the picture drags on for the longest 85 minutes I’ve had the opportunity to sit through this year, missing a true chance to send up lobbyists, government, and Big Tobacco.

Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart, “The Core”) is a Washington lobbyist for the tobacco industry, wheeling and dealing his way all over the country trying to keep the debate about cigarettes alive and kicking as he climbs his way up the corporate ladder. One day, Nick is left in charge of his son (vacant Cameron Bright, “Ultraviolet”) while he runs some important and ultimately soul-searching errands, leaving him wide open to the advances and treachery of a comely young reporter (Katie Holmes) who wants to do a cover story on him.

There’s a fine line between a film that wants to make you laugh and a film that assumes it will. “Thank You for Smoking” is strictly in the latter category. The picture is a worthless satire on all things obvious, from liberal congressmen in Birkenstocks (William H. Macy) to vapid Hollywood power players (Rob Lowe) who name their agency E.G.O. Yet, the film (based on a novel) is delivered with a rather smug assurance that the targets it explores are a special color of gold, and the whole package is guaranteed can’t miss material.

Written and directed by Jason Reitman (son of Ivan Reitman, further proving nepotism in Hollywood isn’t a good thing), “Smoking” is expectedly flashy and quick on its feet. Here Reitman is chasing black comedy, and he likes to play the humor fairly broad and the satire as bright as Phoenix afternoon, trying to keep the scent that this is all supposed to be funny lingering in the air. I found it incredibly challenging to get excited about Reitman’s vision, especially when his satiric targets are exceedingly stale, toothless, and some way too cutesy for a film that looks to draw blood. Unless they hire Bruce McCulloch to dress up and sit in a wheelchair, a joke involving a “Cancer Boy” is a waste of time.

“Smoking” goes after the legacy of a cancer-riddled Marlboro Man (Sam Elliot), gives Nick aggressively cartoony sidekicks in lobbyists for alcohol (Maria Bello) and firearms (David Koechner), and creates a scene in which Nick is quite literally saved by his smoking habit. Again, Reitman handles none of this with confidence; he so concerned with selling the dismal, softball jokes that he neglects richer opportunities for grander comedic movements, thus robbing the film of effectiveness. “Smoking” is all glossy surface, trying to prod the audience like cattle into acknowledging the gags and to experience a false sense of intelligence; however, in this film, more competence is shown by bearing silent witness to all of the jokes dying embarrassingly in front of your eyes.

Whether or not the viewer is responsive to the humor, there’s an effort made throughout the film by Reitman to be conscientious of Nick’s ruthless ways. So what’s the point of abruptly softening Nick’s character? Why is there a scene late in the game that has him going one step too far with his debate tactics, when the rest of the film is arranged to prove that “too far” isn’t in Nick’s vocabulary?

Admittedly, I haven’t scoped the source material, but Reitman’s script does not support such a weakly realized cop-out like the one found here. He tries to patch up the hole with some more bitter satiric sauce, but the damage is done, leaving whatever thought-provoking burn Reitman wanted to give the viewer in “Thank You for Smoking” about as effective as an itchy sweater.

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originally posted: 03/21/06 16:56:14
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2006 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival For more in the 2006 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/29/10 Simon Solid film,tho Reitman's direction/script too deliberate/cutesy at times, there's potential 4 stars
5/22/09 Jeff Wilder Not as biting as it could be. But works better as a satire than pap like American Dreamz, 4 stars
4/20/08 art AN EXCELLENT SATIRE 4 stars
10/18/07 Jake H laughed all the way through it 5 stars
10/04/07 The Film Maker You're welcome! 3 stars
7/15/07 Bitchflaps Not all that funny, and pretty lightweight stuff for the "biting satire" it was hyped to be 2 stars
7/01/07 LC3 A humorous look at the criminal language of control on all fronts. A must see! 5 stars
6/08/07 Black Smoke A quality satire about the stupidity of current society 4 stars
5/20/07 Vann Helms Embarrassing plot; no one ever smokes 1 stars
4/02/07 fools♫gold high-handed, high-hearted, and highbrowed 5 stars
1/31/07 Albert Stone Hillarious stuff, great satire. I loved it. 5 stars
12/03/06 Monday Morning One of the smartest satires I've ever seen. Hilarious, too. 5 stars
10/25/06 Drew G Aaron Eckharts best film yet 4 stars
10/15/06 Phil M. Aficionado Absolutely the right tone and look and mood; terrific and meaningful satire. 4 stars
10/07/06 jwil best satire in years; disregard the one star comments 5 stars
8/26/06 michael dont let the title scare you away 4 stars
8/25/06 helen bradley very slow slow paced poor scritping boring boring 1 stars
7/07/06 pym Very funny, wonerfully sarcastic, great message: freedom of personal choice. 5 stars
5/22/06 Denise Bauman I enjoyed it. 4 stars
5/11/06 Joel Hoffman Very funny and quick witted. Never a dull moment. I really enjoyed this movie. 4 stars
5/06/06 luke funny, smart. very good film. 5 stars
4/28/06 Jen Wilson Not bad... not sure I would see it again, though 3 stars
4/23/06 Mase Everything you can ask for, from a smart political movie with a topnotch cast. 5 stars
4/22/06 Ryan well cast, light but thoughtful humor 4 stars
4/22/06 Suzz As funny as lung cancer; boring; poorly written; does well by nutcase conservatives 1 stars
4/19/06 Annie G A fascinating look at lobbyists. Funny and thoughtful. 4 stars
4/17/06 Agent Sands Any movie that makes the bad guy look good to the point where it's funny; that's a movie!!! 5 stars
3/30/06 Marco Pole Tired witless banter... Why is it getting attention? Director is Son of Ivan Reitman.. 1 stars
3/28/06 Danny Johanson A great satire! 5 stars
3/12/06 Jack Absolutely amazing. Just saw a screening at the USCAF 5 stars
9/17/05 jim A must see! An excellent film. 5 stars
9/13/05 Alex Brisbourne Excellent script, engagingly constructed 4 stars
9/12/05 Trish Great Movie - saw at TO International Film Fest 4 stars
9/11/05 A Hayes Brilliant 5 stars
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  17-Mar-2006 (R)
  DVD: 03-Oct-2006



Directed by
  Jason Reitman

Written by
  Jason Reitman

  Aaron Eckhart
  Maria Bello
  Sam Elliott
  Katie Holmes
  William H. Macy
  Rob Lowe

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