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11.30.2006

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flick pick | Thank You For Smoking 2006
Directed by: Jason Reitman
Written by: Jason Reitman (screenplay), Christopher Buckley (novel)
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Katie Holmes, Cameron Bright, Rob Lowe, William H. Macy, Maria Bello, David Koechner
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: comedy
Watch it when youíre in the mood for something:  darkly comic , witty
The critic says: / 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: /5 

Plot synopsis Nick Naylor loves his job. He also happens to be really, really good at it. All this might be admirable Ė if it werenít the fact that Nickís job, in the eyes of anybody with, oh, a soul, is pretty much evil incarnate. Nick, see, is the American tobacco industryís top lobbyist, which means he spends his time and energy actively promoting cigarette smoking and protecting the sneaky tactics of the countryís tobacco companies, in blatant disregard of the fact that the health consequences of smoking have been well documented. Nickís so good at spinning his arguments that he can make health watchgroups, doctors and lung cancer patients look like the dupes, and paint his employers as the poor victims in a government conspiracy to limit the personal freedom of Americans. That most folks disapprove of his profession doesnít bother him a bit; heís got a couple of like-minds he hangs out with on a regular basis, Polly Bailey and Bobby Jay Bliss, who happen to be an alcohol lobbyist and a firearms lobbyist respectably (the reviled three refer to themselves as the MOD squad, short for Merchants of Death). Still, moral flexibility aside, Nick isnít all that terrible a guy. He genuinely loves his pre-pubescent son Joey, and does a mostly decent job of teaching the kid how to think for himself; he makes a real effort to bond with him. Itís an attempt to do this last that he ends up bringing Joey along with him to California as he prepares to launch his latest tactic towards making cigarette smoking seem more positive: getting Hollywood involved and sneaking in some good olí product placement. It looks like Nickís on his way to scoring another victory for big tobacco, until he finds himself getting involved with an ambitious and rather fetching young journalist named Heather Holloway.

Review By now weíve all had this simplistic message hammered into our brains: Cigarettes kill. Tobacco companies bad. So itís a weird thing to find yourself kinda sorta rooting for the too-slick tobacco lobbyist, but as protagonist Nick Naylor, Aaron Eckhart is so good that you canít help finding yourself getting more than a little sucked in by his charm. Heís so clearly having a grand old time delivering Nickís twisted-genius arguments, and itís impossible to imagine the role could have been any better cast. By movieís end, Eckhart actually manages to make Nick seem like the hero (relatively speaking; this is a movie in which just about everyone comes off as completely self-serving). This -- combined with a strong script (adapted from a novel by Christopher Buckley) that ensures that the barbed jokes are equal-opportunity offenders that skewer politicians, the media, and righteous do-gooders alike -- means that the movie doesnít end up being the scathing indictment of the tobacco industry that some folks might expect. In the end, Thank You For Smokingís biting satire isnít aimed so much at cigarettes and their makers, but rather at how hypocritical we all can be. And frankly, this makes for a whole lot more interesting viewing. Because, honestly, who doesnít already know that the cigarette companies are evil? Thereís been media coverage of that fact a-plenty. What Thank You for Smoking provides is something a whole lot harder to find: itís deeply, snort-out-loud funny, effortlessly stylish, and very smart Ö fresh, snappy and just complete fun to watch.óreviewed by Yee-Fan Sun

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