Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Cancer Man Can Cause He Mixes It With Love, Or: Loving The Spin I'm In

A Movie Review

Young director Jason Reitman, who got is start in bit child parts in movies such as Kindergarten Cop and Dave, brings to the screen his first mass marketed film, Thank You For Smoking, with a certain juvenile glee. Based on the satiric novel by Christopher Buckley (son of conservative oracle William F. Jr.), Thank You felt too obvious to be truly biting. In actuality this film should have been made 10 years ago when the smoking related issues it addresses were still relevant, the moral story it attempts to communicate is now to generally accepted and obvious to warrant a cinematic treatment.

It is fortunate then that this movie doesn't only focuses its satiric energies on the Tobacco industry, other obvious targets such as the gun and alcoholic beverage lobbies are also lampooned in the form of David Koechner and Maria Bello respectively. Perhaps the films funniest character was Hollywood super-agent Jeff Megall, (played in one of the movies many instances of obvious casting by Rob Lowe), a charming work-aholic and collector of all things Asian, who is perhaps even more "morally flexible" then lead character Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart).

Naylor is a much hated lobbyist for a Tobacco industry front group, who is brilliantly performed by Eckhart in a rare staring role. Naylor insures that the films proceedings remain entertaining despite no strong plot. An ill-advised romantic relationship with Kate Holmes reporter Heather Holloway, and a death threat from an anti-tobacco group help provide some narrative thrust, but basically the movie is just Naylor going around doing his job and attempting to maintain a relationship with his 12 year old son (Cameron Bright). William H. Macy, J.K. Simmons, and Robert Duvall all have mostly cartoonish feeling parts in the film, though Sam Elliotts former Marlboro Man character Lorne Lutch has a little more depth then the others.

Thank You For Smoking will entertain you throughout, but I can't really call it a good movie. All flesh and no bones it try's to deliver the sour-milk of satire in a conventional comedy format with a faux-moralistic ending that doesn't really work. You could probably get more out of the material by simply reading Buckley's book.


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