Anti-smoking ads are everywhere. Pictures of black lungs, countless statistics being tossed around and the street campaigns of the anti-tobacco groups like Truth are seen time and time again. Jason Reitman’s “Thank You For Smoking” puts the audience in the tobacco company’s seat, and for 90 minutes the memory of all the anti-smoking ads is replaced with laughter and one of the funniest movies to come out this year.
Adapted from a book by the same name, Aaron Eckhart stars as Nick Naylor, the spokesperson for the big tobacco companies, who takes all the heat for many of the tobacco companies’ criticisms and “spins” it into something positive. Eckhart has gone from the scruffy haired biker boy in “Erin Brockovich” to his best role yet.
He is very quick-witted here, and while voice-overs tend to be hit or miss in other movies, they fit nicely and are an appropriate accompaniment to the fast-paced movie.
As the lobbyist, Naylor has to work and deal with a wide array of characters. Some of the funniest scenes occur when he has lunch with two of his best friends, known as the Merchants of Death, or the MOD Squad. Maria Bello plays an alcohol lobbyist Polly Bailey, and the very funny David Koechner plays gun lobbyist Bobby Jay Bliss. Katie Holmes plays news reporter Heather Holloway who will do just about anything to get dirt on Naylor, including sleeping with him.
Naylor’s job even takes him to Hollywood where he pushes the role of cigarettes in movies to a top Hollywood agent played by Rob Lowe. Lowe does his usual thing, but the highlight here, surprisingly, is his hyper assistant, played by Adam Brody of “The OC.”
The first half is mostly the everyday life of a tobacco lobbyist until Naylor is confronted by an anti-tobacco senator from Vermont, Ortolan K. Finistirr, played by William H. Macy.
While the movie is heavy on the comedy, some of the debates in the movie about tobacco are very current and present themselves well.
There is even a side story about Naylor spending more time with his kid that could have come off as sappy, but works and is a nice addition to the already packed movie.
The only problem with the movie is its runtime. Complaints of many recent movies have been that they excede a two-hour runtime, but in “Smoking,” the movie goes by so fast that it feels like there should be more.
“Thank You For Smoking” pulls no punches with its controversial material and is relatable to smokers and non-smokers alike.
And for a movie that presents the tobacco companies’ view of it all, there is not one cigarette smoked on film, which was a nice little touch (among many others) that director Reitman brought to the movie.
Every actor in the huge ensemble cast brings something to their role (even Katie Holmes) and is not only one of the best comedies of the year, but also one of the best movies of the year.
While “Smoking” did not get a wide theatrical release, it is out on DVD now, so save the money it will cost on a pack of cigarettes and rent it.