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Thank You For Smoking (DVD Review)

17 Sep, 2006 By: John Latchem

Street 10/3/06
Box Office $24.8 million
$29.98 DVD
Rated ‘R' for language and some sexual content.
Stars Aaron Eckhart, William H. Macy, Katie Holmes, Cameron Bright, Robert Duvall, Maria Bello, David Koechner.

The key to the comedy in Thank You For Smoking may be in its twisting the traditional media view of the tobacco industry. Its role reversal casts a pro-tobacco lobbyist in the role of the hero, while those who oppose smoking are presented as antagonists.

In a commentary, director Jason Reitman (son of Ivan) says this dichotomy works because the bad guys aren't after an altruistic result, but a selfish gain, and their methods are underhanded. The actions of big tobacco, on the other hand, are seen as almost farcical — and chock full of laughs.

Thank You For Smoking is good satire and a very funny movie that targets not just the cigarette industry, but also the power structures of Hollywood and Washington, D.C.

Aaron Eckhart plays Nick Naylor, a spin doctor for a thinly veiled pro-tobacco research firm who takes on a slick senator looking to put a skull and crossbones on every pack of smokes.

Naylor counters by suggesting a big-budget sci-fi movie in which smoking in the future is considered cool and healthy; he's even got a product tie-in. His plans are jeopardized by a militant anti-tobacco group and an intrepid young reporter, not to mention his growing influence over his own son (Cameron Bright).

The film achieved some notoriety due to the involvement of Katie Holmes as the reporter. A sex scene between Holmes and Eckhart was mistakenly omitted from a cut of the film screened at Sundance. The actual scene is barely a few seconds long and is more of a comedic romp, shot from a distance. The sequence is nowhere near as raunchy as the hype would make it seem, and Reitman mentions in one of two commentaries that people still think the scene is missing even after seeing the completed film.

A couple of featurettes about the film are rather underwhelming. Each is less than 10 minutes and repeat a lot of footage between them. One purports to cover the making of the film but mostly features ruminations about its themes. Another examines the nature of the “spin doctor” and how the public is so willing to eat up their distortions of the truth.

An interview segment from the “Charlie Rose Show” is a bit more enlightening as Rose traces the process it took to bring author Christopher Buckley's 1994 novel to the big screen.

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