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20th Century Fox presents
Thank You for Smoking (2006)

"That's the beauty of arguement... if you argue correctly, you're never wrong."
- Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart)

Review By: Ross Johnson  
Published: October 02, 2006

Stars: Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello, Cameron Bright, Adam Brody, Robert Duvall, William H. Macy
Other Stars: Katie Holmes, Rob Lowe, Sam Elliott
Director: Jason Reitman

MPAA Rating: R for language, some sexual content
Run Time: 01h:31m:00s
Release Date: October 03, 2006
UPC: 024543255048
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AAB B

DVD Review

Thank You For Smoking probably isn't quite the movie you think it is. At least, it wasn't what I was expecting. From all appearances, and by the very nature of our presumptions with regard to anything relating to Big Tobacco, I just figured that a film about a smoking lobbyist would have to be a stinging satire of the whole industry. Even the main character's name, Nick Naylor (get it?), suggests the proverbial death merchant. I was pleasantly surprised to have been a bit wrong in my assumptions. Nick is no hero in writer/director Jason Reitman's film, but neither is the self-righteous and hypocritical congressman dogging his steps, nor is the reporter out to expose him. No one gets off easy.

Nick (Aaron Eckhart) works for the deceptively named Academy of Tobacco Studies. Funded by major tobacco companies, their job is to disprove the health risks associated with smoking. Nick is their mouthpiece, and he's darn good at his job. He's also a loving father, with only occasional tinges of conscience. He has no illusions about what he does, and he's comfortable that he has a role in society in the same way, he explains to his son, that a lawyer defending a killer has. As much as the film doesn't shy away from the spin, half-truths, and underhanded deals that comprise Nick's day-to-day existence, the character of Vermont Senator Finistirre (William H. Macy) is far less appealing. He has a product to sell in the same way as Nick—he wants to slap these hilarious zombie-head/skull-and-crossbones warning labels on cigarette packages, and for politicians there are very few targets safer than the tobacco industry. By the time he attacks his aide for not getting just the right type of "cancer boy" for a talk show appearance, it's pretty clear what we're meant to think of him. Even worse is the seductive reporter played by Katie Holmes. She's willing to do just about anything to advance her career, and it won't hurt her to go after tobacco either. The three of them form a sort of unholy triangle that represents the real powers in America: the media, the lobbyists, and the politicians. They're all looking out for themselves, the ones howling about morals every bit as much as the ones telling you that it's OK to smoke. And they're all trafficking in the currency of the realm: spin. Nick just happens to be a bit better at it. Eckhart is perfect in the role, with just the right amounts of sleaze and charm.

In case this all sounds pretty heavy, the movie is actually quite funny. It's brisk, and moves through its relatively short running time without ever really slowing down. There's a kidnapping, some sex, and a wide array of celebrity cameos: Rob Lowe is a movie producer working on Nick's movie about smoking in space, Robert Duvall is the Hugh Hefner of the Raleigh-Durham tobacco scene, and Sam Elliott, who never looks young but never looks any older, plays a reformed but dying Marlboro Man. There's a charmingly light touch throughout, and Nick does soften a little by the end, but the satire is pretty sharp. I've never read the book by Christopher Buckley upon which this film was based, but I understand it's even more biting. Nevertheless, it was a daring move to make a movie in which our protagonist, and most likeable character, is not only a lobbyist, but a tobacco lobbyist. For making that work I give Jason Reitman a whole lot of credit. His deft touch on the camera takes material that could have easily been preachy or pedantic and turns it into a movie both charming and nastily funny.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Thank You For Smoking is a bright movie, and the colors are well represented in the image transfer. Overall, it's clear and crisp with no clear flaws. Great transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanishno


Audio Transfer Review: Good, not great audio transfer. In this very dialogue-heavy film, all the talking is clear and completely audible, but there's not a whole lot of activity from the rear channels.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 36 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
13 Deleted Scenes
2 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by writer/director Jason Reitman; Reitman and Aaron Eckhart and David Koechner
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. still galleries
  2. soundtrack spot
Extras Review: There's a bunch of stuff here. Some of it is slight, and there's a little more quantity than quality, but there's still fun to be had. There are two commentary tracks. The first features writer/director Jason Reitman solo; on the second he's joined by actors Aaron Eckhart and David Koechner. They're both pretty good, with Reitman's solo track going into a great deal of production detail. He wrote the screenplay as well as directed, so he has a lot to say about the artistic formation of the film as well as the production. The second track is lighter, and more of a reminiscense. There's a good repartee between the three gentlemen, and a lot of discussion of the acting.

Next, there are a couple of featurettes. Unfiltered Comedy: The Making of Thank You For Smoking is a very standard, clip-filled making of. America: Living in Spin is a little more interesting, getting into spin and the lies which are so a part of our political system now. To get the filmmakers perspective on the topic, watch the film. At just under 5 minutes, there's not really time to develop it here.

There are 13 deleted scenes, many of which are quite good on their own. There's an optional commentary track by Reitman, who explains that the scenes were cut either to improve the overall pace or to not let the film's satire get too broad. Having commentaries on cut scenes is always a nice way to get some insight into the editing process, and that works here. Good stuff.

There are three still galleries: Poster Art has... poster art. Art Department is my favorite, including all of the original sketches and full art for the various fake organizations and locations referenced in the film. These are all fairly clever, and not always entirely noticeable during onscreen. Then there are a large number of Storyboards.

Last, there's the theatrical trailer and a soundtrack spot. The soundtrack apparently consists entirely of smoking songs. If you like songs, and like smoking, it sounds like you'll dig it.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

I went into this movie expecting a preachifying satire of the tobacco industry, and instead found something that digs a little deeper and takes aim at more than just the obvious targets. For all the heavy subject matter, it's surprisingly light, brisk, and funny. The disc has several very decent special features, with good sound and a great picture. I could come up with a whole bunch of smoking related puns about its quality (example: "It's addictive!"), but I'd never forgive myself, so I'll just say: check it out. You'll like it.

 


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