More noise than signal

Thank You for Smoking

This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com

There’s been something of a dearth of good comedy flicks of late. In fact, if you’ve actually laughed in a cinema between here and Napoleon Dynamite it was probably at someone tripping over the stairs on their way to the seat. Ahahaha. I mean seriously, look at Date Movie and The Pink Panther. Or rather, don’t, as they are both relentlessly awful in ways that mankind’s greatest geniuses have yet to comprehend.

As such, you’ll have to forgive the low expectations Thank You for Smoking received from these quarters, regardless of its decent reviews from less reputable film opinion delivery vectors. As I am forced to admit to on a far more frequent basis than I’d care to mention, I was wrong. This satire has more than enough biting one-liners and bellylaughs to be worthy of your attention.

Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) has perhaps the most thankless job on the face of the planet as public relations goon for the tobacco industry, fending off the likes of Senator Ortolan K. Finistirre (William H. Macy) and his aides angling to have fag packets labelled with the good ol’ fashioned poison logo and chat-show hosts ever eager to break out the cancer-boys to elicit public sympathy. Nick simply has to talk his way out of tight corners and present a socially acceptable spin on an industry hated only marginally less than the child pornography business.

He’s not entirely without sympathisers, with PR reps from the gun trade Bobby Jay Bliss (David Koechner) and booze industry Polly Bailey (Maria Bello) sharing much of his pain, and support of sorts from his boss Budd “BR” Rohrabacher (J.K. Simmons, essentially reprising his Jerimiah Jameson role from Spiderman). There’s the obligatory family troubles from his ex-wife, particularly when he starts taking his son Joey (Cameron Bright, the exceptionally unlucky kid from Running Scared) along with him on a business trip to Hollywood to sort out some product placement, injecting some of the glamour back into cancersticks. And with some reason, as Nick teaches the kid to weave the same magic spells of bullshit that he’s made a career out of.

There’s a really sharp script from director Jason “Ivan’s Son” Reitman, adapting Christopher Buckley’s novel, and Eckhart, who we hadn’t exactly pegged as the saviour of cinematic comedy, delivers lines that drip acerbic-icity, if such a thing or word is possible, knocking lines out of the park like Barry Bonds at his most steroid-enhanced. The supporting cast are, with one exception, equally adroit which keeps this film, and the laughs, thumping along at a fair old lick.

The exception of which I speak in tones so mordant comes in the shape of Kelly Holmes, here a reporter, Heather Holloway, snaring Nick into revealing trade secrets using her feminine wiles as a honeytrap in a strange bit of casting that would have anyone other than celebrity Scientologymonkey Cruise believe that the dizzy bitch is in some way alluring. Continuing her career long losing streak of being absolutely charmless and irritating in absolutely everything, she sucks the life out of the film for her mercifully limited screentime. It is my fervent wish that one day soon Kelly Holmes can be separated out into her component particles and put to some more fruitful arrangement, perhaps as a delicious meringue, or a mango. Mmm, mango meringue.

It’s traditionally at just about this point I completely run out of things to say about comedies, and this would seem to be no exception. Perhaps Thank you for Smoking tries just a little too hard to be trendy, but the bottom line remains that it’s pretty damn funny. Well, as long as Katie Holmes isn’t on the screen. Man, what a waste of space. Essentially, if you can discount her, this film is really good. And rather funny. Which seems to be as much as you can ask from a comedy. Well, that and not having Katie bloody Holmes in it.