Thank You For Smoking appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I felt pleased with this consistently good transfer.
Only a few minor issues affected sharpness. A little edge enhancement occasionally made wide shots a smidgen soft. However, those remained minor, and the majority of the flick looked crisp and concise. I saw no moiré effects or jagged edges, and source flaws appeared absent.
Smoking went with an oddly subdued palette. It tended toward a dingy look that reminded me of the yellow glaze on a smoker’s teeth. I don’t know if that was intentional or just a side effect of low-key color design, but that was how it looked to me. Within this scheme, the colors seemed acceptable. They didn’t stand out, but they weren’t meant to be bold, so the hues were fine. Blacks appeared dark and firm, and low-light shots demonstrated good clarity and definition. Only the occasional soft shot kept this transfer from “A”-level.
As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Thank You For Smoking, it was exceptionally unexceptional. Since one wouldn’t expect auditory fireworks from this sort of dark comedy, however, that was perfectly acceptable. The soundfield rarely strayed from the front channels. The surrounds almost always contributed minor reinforcement, as they became more active on very few occasions. For instance, a short thunderstorm shot opened up the rears in a satisfying way, but that was the exception. Otherwise the mix stayed with stereo music and general ambience; there’s little to stand out from the crowd here.
Audio quality was solid. Speech appeared accurate and concise, with no edginess or other issues. Music was clear and showed nice range, and effects followed suit. They rarely played much of a role, but they came across as clean and distinctive. The audio was perfectly fine for the story, but don’t expect anything memorable.
Smoking comes with a surprisingly large roster of extras. The disc opens with two separate audio commentaries. The first features writer/director Jason Reitman as he gives us a running, screen-specific discussion. Reitman gets into the opening credits, cast and performances, locations and sets, the story and changes from the novel, costumes, set decoration, and other production notes.
At his best, Reitman delivers some good information about the film. He offers a few nice stories like controversy over the movie’s sex scene, and he even goes on an amusing tirade against Internet nitpickers who love to point out continuity flaws. Unfortunately, two issues mar the commentary. For one, there’s more dead air than I’d like, as gaps pop up with moderate frequency. For another, Reitman comes across as awfully self-satisfied much of the time. He makes a lot of self-congratulatory comments throughout the piece, and this gets old. The track isn’t bad, but it’s too problematic to be a real winner.
For the second track, we hear from Reitman and actors Aaron Eckhart and David Koechner. They all sit together for a running, screen-specific piece. This discussion often strongly resembles Reitman’s solo chat. We hear about all the same subjects and get many of the exact same stories; quite a lot of material repeats between the two tracks. This one tends to be livelier, though, especially since Koechner presents a genial personality. The commentary tells us a little more about changes from the book – mostly because Koechner grills Reitman on the subject – and features performance issues a bit more prominently. However, the differences are really pretty minor; the actors fail to bring a lot of useful material to the table. This is probably the superior of the two tracks, though, so if you only want to screen one, go with it.
13 Deleted Scenes run a total of 15 minutes and 35 seconds. Some interesting bits appear. We get to see the teen anti-smoking ad alluded to in the final flick, and we can check out the alternate ending discussed in the commentaries. The last one’s a disaster; I have no clue why they ever thought it’d be good. A meeting between Heather and Finistirre is more interesting in theory than on the screen, and some other duds appear. Most are reasonably entertaining, though, and we find some fun extensions of existing scenes.
We can view these with or without commentary from Reitman. He gives us some decent notes about the scenes and lets us know why he chopped them. Reitman does the job in this useful look at the segments.
An Excerpts from The Charlie Rose Show takes up 18 minutes and 22 seconds. This clip presents an interview with Reitman, Eckhart, author Christopher Buckley and producer David O. Sacks. All four of them sit with Rose for an interactive chat. We learn about the script’s long path to the screen and how all involved came on board. We also get info about the story and characters, the flick’s themes and topicality, Eckhart’s take on Nick, changes between the book and the movie, challenges related to satirical flicks, and a few general notes.
Despite too many movie clips, the Rose excerpt proves reasonably informative. It’s good to hear from the original author, and Rose makes sure that he asks some intriguing questions. The segment acts as a nice expansion of issues developed elsewhere.
A featurette called Unfiltered Comedy: The Making of Thank You For Smoking lasts eight minutes, 56 seconds. We find film clips, behind the scenes bits, and remarks from Reitman, Eckhart, Koechner, and actors Maria Bello, and William H. Macy. The show covers the story, characters and themes. Movie snippets abound in this totally superfluous promotional piece. It’s a glorified trailer.
For another featurette, we get the four-minute and 57-second America: Living In Spin. It features Reitman, Eckhart, Macy, Koechner, and actors Dennis Miller and Rob Lowe. They briefly discuss the concept of spin and how it works in today’s society. However, the program exists as another excuse to tout the movie, so we mostly get movie clips. Yawn!
A few Galleries follow. We find “Poster Art” (seven stills), “Art Department” (42) and “Storyboards” (112). All are good, though I particularly like the “Art Department” bits. They let us check out the details of the old-time cigarette ad mock-ups created for the flick along with other neat tidbits.
In addition to the Trailer for Smoking, the DVD concludes with a Soundtrack Spot.
Occasionally incisive and compelling but often predictable and limp, Thank You For Smoking rarely lives up to its potential. Despite some bright spots and good performances, the movie falters too much of the time to become a real winner. The DVD presents very good picture along with adequate audio and an erratic but generally informative set of extras. This one might merit a rental.