Thank You For Smoking

Directed by Jason Reitman

Thank You For Smoking, the story of a tobacco industry lobbyist and his amoral (or as he puts it in the film when discussing his occupation with his young son, "flexible morals") quest to get all of America smoking again, has at its very core, the audacious possibility of being one of the sharpest tongued satires on society around today - and with a lobbyist (a man who theoretically should be able to sell gay child porn to the Pope) at its center, all bets (and all gloves) should be invariably off and punching at the gut of societal norms.

Instead, what we get is nothing short of insipid parody (and there is a difference between satire and parody) infused with a lack of imagination, wrapped in a thick coating of overextended joke manipulation, layered with the stench of mediocrity. An especially sad case indeed, considering the talent that went wasted here in so many truncated roles - Maria Bello, Robert Duvall, Cameron Bright, Sam Elliot, William H. Macy - not to mention the satiric possibilities that went flying out the window with lackadaisical abandonment. It is this half-hearted acting from nearly everyone in the film (and this is a great cast here!), with the possible exception of Rob Lowe as a typically sleazy Hollywood über-agent (although it is probably less his performance - a glorified cameo actually - and more the possibilities that his character's intentions represent - intentions that, like everything else here, never quite materialize), and its overall lack of zest (no one seems to really want to be here) that make Reitman's film fail on so many levels (although I did find it rather an ironic - albeit purposefully so - piece of comedy that absolutely no character in this film ever lights up a cigarette).

To put it bluntly - and succinctly (especially with how little I really have to say about a film so squarely mundane) - the film was just a colossal bore from beginning to end, and there was no reason for it to be. There is so much that could be done with this premise - and under the correct directorial hands (certainly not Reitman's, who seems to be following in his father's lackluster footsteps) - that there was no need for me to start peering about the darkened theatre counting how many people were in there (twenty-six by the way) or for my wife to nod off for a glorious second or two (or 180). Sure, I wasn't expecting the next Citizen Kane - or even the next Ghostbusters - but there was still so much missed enjoyment here it is almost sad to think about it. In the end, Thank You For Smoking is nothing more than endless opportunities wasted away with tedium. [04/18/06]