Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart), lobbyist for the American tobacco industry, a fast- and smooth-talking professional arguer, goes to hollywood to improve smoking’s image and at the same time tries to protect his industry from an ambitious anti-smoking senator who wants to put a skull and crossbones on every packet of cigarettes. He represents an industry that kills 1200 people a day, a fact which he presents with pride to his fellow MODs (merchants of death), the representatives of the alcohol and firearms industries whose death tolls are (for them) disappointingly smaller. And this seemingly amoral yuppie is a character that the audience is supposed to like. Thank You for Smoking has a premise that should guarantee a good movie.
And yet it doesn’t entirely live up to its potential. I have to confess that I can’t quite tell what it was about the film that wasn’t up to scratch for me. Not terribly helpful in a review, I know, but that’s the way it is. There is one particularly bad actor, Cameron Bright (Leech in X-Men 3) who plays Naylor’s son, but I don’t think he really had that much of a negative impact on the film despite his "I’m reading this off a teleprompter, badly" delivery. I suspect that it’s just a case of too-high expectations on my part. Thankfully that’s not something you should have to deal with now that I’ve told you it’s not that good.
I’ll be fair; it isn’t actually bad. It’s actually quite good, and still in my top five new movies from this year so far. There are a few great scenes and a number of very entertaining supporting characters. It just never goes beyond what the trailer presents. There’s nothing in the whole film funnier than Rob Lowe’s "thank God we invented the, you know, whatever device" to explain the fact that cigarettes don’t explode in an all-oxygen environment in sci-fi movies.
If the concept appeals to you then you probably won’t be let down, but you won’t be wowed either. On the other hand if the premise leaves you cold then there’s no reason to think that the film will do anything to change your mind.