The witty film of a wittier book has some cracking performances, some great lines but a sentimental under-belly.
Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) is America’s finest spin-doctor. He has to be – he is the official spokesman for the tobacco-industry with a mission to prove that cigarette smoking is OK and that two and two makes five.
“Slick, stylish and sharp-witted…an entertaining satire on contemporary morality that skewers corporate spin culture.” Variety
“For all its subversive talk the film is more conservative than it thinks.” The Independent.
Christopher Buckley’s book was funnier and had a sharper bite than the film but first-time director Reitman succeeds in maintaining Buckley’s ironic tone with a witty first-person commentary, a well-sprung music score and largely satirical performances from his actors in this entertaining film about corporate spin in the United States.
Showing its debt to the novel, the funniest bits are verbal rather than visual with most of the good lines given to Aaron Eckhart’s knowingly cynical Nick Naylor. Unfortunately the visual gags are less stylish and the plot fragments into a number of silly sub-plots at about the halfway mark.
Aaron Eckhart is perfectly cast as the word-perfect “Sultan of Spin” with his All-American blond hair, baby blue eyes, tombstone teeth and the biggest mouth this side of the Jaws of Hell. Reitman rightly allows Eckhart’s face to fill the screen just as he lets his performance dominate the film.
Robert Duvall is both sinister and poignant as an ageing tobacco baron, William H. Macy truly repulsive as the anti-smoking, “nice guy” Senator and Maria Bello is seductively likeable as the hard-drinking spokesperson for the alcohol industry. Adam Brody, in a brief cameo appearance, nearly steals the whole film with his brilliantly phony assistant to the Hollywood super-agent played by Rob Lowe as a designer-Buddhist with a heart of stone.
Sentimentality creeps into the film’s final reel as Nick Naylor shows that underneath all the spin he’s just a regular guy. Hang on a minute. Is that sentimentality? Isn’t that a new spin? Look at our political leaders – we’re all regular guys now.
William H. Macy