Here’s a suitable creative team for our dynastic presidency: Jason Reitman, son of director Ivan (Stripes, Ghostbusters), adapting a novel by the well-established wit Christopher Buckley, son of William F. (National Review). Reitman’s take on this satire of lobbyists and big tobacco starts out sprinting, but the swift direction fizzles along with the story and the willfully diffuse positioning (and no one stays mean long enough to be entertaining). Lobbyists are ripe for a Sweet Smell of Success for today’s era, and Aaron Eckhart could be the one to swing the smarm, but this is not that movie.
In fact, a stale smell clings to Thank You for Smoking, probably because the rights to the 1994 book have been sold and resold for years. Tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor (Eckhart) inhabits an anachronistic Washington as he vies with his liberal foe, a Vermont senator (William H. Macy) — it’s a few lawsuits and contracts with America too late for this batch of weak swipes.
That’s not to say there isn’t a genuine hook in watching Naylor mull morality secondhand in raising his 12-year-old son, Joey (the currently ubiquitous, buttock-faced Child of the Corn Cameron Bright). What’s worse for the kid’s health, we wonder, the smoking or the sophistry?
But satire that doesn’t take a real position or have anything fresher to say (ten years later!) can be a little depressing when the real-life targets are by now firmly, unhilariously in power: spinmeisters do rule the roost, lobbyists do write our laws, and politicians do get away with anything by saying nothing. It’s all a little hard to laugh off unless you’re laughing much harder than this.
Opens March 17