After 10 days of back-to-back movie viewing, reviewing, discussing and disliking, one’s appreciation for a sub-par trip to the cinema is all but shot. Lucky for us, Sunday night’s closing film, “Thank You for Smoking,” more than lived up to its hype. Adapted and directed by Ivan Reitman’s protégé spawn, Jason Reitman, the film presented the perfect matchup of daddy’s hilarious comic taste with a delightfully irreverent – and decidedly youthful – look at political correctness.
The story is simple. Divorced father Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) struggles between his all-consuming full-time job and his role as Super Dad to the young son (Cameron Bright) that idealizes him. The catch? Naylor’s place as fit father and role model is continually called into question as he jet sets around the country lobbying for Big Tobacco. The unarguable guru of spin and BS, Naylor consistently runs his mouth at inopportune times. (Think pro-smoking campaigning during the elementary school’s Career Day.) Despite his obvious flaws, we can’t help but root for Naylor as he (unknowingly) sells out everyone he knows by sleeping with a news reporter (Katie Holmes) and gets kidnapped and tortured by a group of anti-tobacco terrorists.
In the end, it’s the bit parts and off-the-wall cameos that make “Thank You for Smoking” the comedic pleasure it is. Rob Lowe and Adam Brody make an uproariously ridiculous duo as a talent agent and assistant who, through Naylor’s hefty donation, set off to put cigarettes back in the hands of Hollywood’s elite. Similarly, Naylor’s buddies in the self-proclaimed “M.O.D. Squad” – which fittingly stands for the Merchants of Death – provide their fair share of socially unconscious hilarity. Along with Naylor, talking head of the Alcoholic Administration Polly Bailey (Maria Bello) and Bobby Jay Bliss (David Koechner) of the Firearms Commission act as the poster children for everything wrong with American culture. In the end, Naylor is, of course, forced to decide between right and wrong, but Reitman’s punchy screenplay and clever casting overshadow the script’s predictability, making “Thank You for Smoking” as enjoyably disturbing as a comedy about lung cancer could hope to be.