Fox Searchlight Pictures | Release Date: March 17, 2006
7.6
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Generally favorable reviews based on 156 Ratings
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LewisApr 9, 2006
It sure doesn't hurt to have your multi-millionaire director/father behind when you direct your own first film. Jason Reitman (son of Ivan Reitman) has concocted this weak, unfunny farce/semi-satire about a tobacco industry lobbyist. It sure doesn't hurt to have your multi-millionaire director/father behind when you direct your own first film. Jason Reitman (son of Ivan Reitman) has concocted this weak, unfunny farce/semi-satire about a tobacco industry lobbyist. One would expect from liberal Hollywood types to depict a tobacco industry lobbyist as a churlish, mean-spirited ogre of sorts. But Reitman goes to the other extreme--his man becomes much too sympathetic. And that also goes for the two other "merchants of death" pals (alcohol and gun lobbyists) that our "Hero" ('Nick Naylor) hangs out with in various dinner conversation scenes throughout the movie. Once you see the first of these dinner scenes, you've seen them all. They're very static and all three of our lobbyists (can you imagine this?) have hearts of gold (ugh!). The point is that lobbyists in real life have got to be a lot more complex and tougher than the light-weights shown here. The movie in fact is full of light weight characters. The boss at the "Academy of Tobacco Studies" curses a lot but he's lovable as is Robert Duvall's mentor, a 'been-around-the-block' curmudgeon. The movie starts very slowly and nothing gets going with the plot for about 30 minutes. The first major plot development (the first act) involves Naylor getting an appointment with a Hollywood super agent played by Rob Lowe. Naylor wants the agent to broker a deal with big name Hollywood actors to boost the tobacco's industry's image by having them smoke cigarettes again in the movies like they did in days of old. The idea is too ludicrous to be even satirical. Even so, given the initial set-up, I was expecting the story to involve some machinations in Hollywood but that plot line suddenly dries up. The next plot development is even more ludicrous: unknown anti-smoking activists kidnap Naylor, tie him up, place nicotine patches all over his body and leave him naked in the arms of Abraham Lincoln's statue at the Lincoln Memorial. Naylor's body becomes so toxic that the doctor at the hospital tells him he won't ever be able to smoke again. The mild satire of Rob Lowe's slick Hollywood super-agent, gives way to very low Three Stooges Farce in the 'second act.' The Third act involves Naylor's seduction by a Washington gossip reporter played by Katie Holmes. Inexplicably, Naylor reveals the secrets of his personal and professional life to the reporter who immediately skewers him in a gossip column. Naylor, who supposedly is a slick wheeler-dealer, suddenly is surprised by this supposed 'betrayal of confidence.' Could never happen! Another thing that really amazed me was the fact that Naylor is never shown smoking a cigarette throughout the movie. What a copout! Reitman wants it both ways: he's afraid of offending the anti-smoking crowd (so he shows no one smoking throughout the film) but depicts Naylor as a hero because he champions the view of 'freedom of choice.' The only real wit in the film occurs in the scenes between Naylor and his son who speaks like an adult and manages to get his comuppance on both the father and mother at times. Overall, this film trivializes the dangers of smoking by creating a sympathetic, stick figure tobacco lobbyist with a heart of gold. Expand
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