Most movies with a political theme out of Hollywood are crap. Movies like Dave or The American President usually involve plots that go something like this:
Mean, political animal of a president (usually a Republican, natch) suddenly has an epiphany, a moment of clarity and conscience, and decides to sign some sweeping environmental and/or socialist bill to the chagrin of his handlers, but to the everlasting joy of the woman in his life. Everyone in the country rejoices that the normally tight-fisted, Ebenezer Scrooge-like president now cares deeply for the endangered, impoverished hoi polloi. Everyone goes home happy, Q.E.D.
In other words, Hollywood movies about politics usually involve some kind of irritating liberal moralization. The underlying goal of this is to inevitably get audiences to think twice about who they pull the lever for, and more than that, how to live.
There are exceptions to the rule, mind. Wag The Dog was the clever exception to this rule. And now comes Thank You For Smoking, about a tobacco lobbyist named Nick Naylor. Nick's character, played by Aaron Eckhart, describes himself as such: "You know the guy who can get any girl? I'm that guy...on crack." Nick is so good at knowing every angle of every argument that he's virtually unbeatable in debate, even though he shills for a clearly unhealthy product. His two best friends are a gun lobbyist and and an alcohol industry lobbyist (David Koechner and Maria Bello), who routinely meet at a high-class Washington establishment for drinks, to compare war stories, and trade ideas on how to defend and promote the embattled industries that they work for. These three refer to themselves as the M.O.D. Squad (the acronym M.O.D. stands for Merchants of Death). One particular scene has them arguing which industry product is more dangerous, complete with annual fatality comparisons. (Nick wins that argument, too.) Throughout the movie, Nick spins, dodges, and invetably boxes in anyone and everyone who takes him on regarding the dangers of smoking. Does he suffer a crisis of conscience? An epipaphy that makes him turn against his former big tobacco employers? Become a voice of reason who joins forces with the liberal do-gooders in the end? That would be giving away too much, but I can tell you that this is a funny, intelligent movie that thankfully doesn't end up sanctimonious and heavy-handed. For Nick Naylor, it's not about tobacco being addictive or dangerous, it's about free will to choose to smoke or not smoke. Take him on, and he'll not only be you in debate, but have you believing he's right and you're wrong in the end.
A fun flick that is worth seeing, particularly for those with a libertarian streak.