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  •  REVIEW: I HEART HUCKABEES

    I Heart Huckabees

    Heart for heart's sake

    Heart it or hate it, "I Heart Huckabees" is a modest piece of would-be intellectual entertainment, ultimately as fluffy as the cute little heart symbol it winkingly adopts.

    By DAVID N. BUTTERWORTH
    Offoffoff.com

    Lovers (hearters?) of David O. Russell, the unconventional writer/director of "Three Kings," "Flirting with Disaster," and "Spanking the Monkey," have learned to embrace wackiness as part of the filmmaker's cinematic oeuvre, but wacky doesn't even begin to describe his latest foray, the self-hailed "existential comedy" "I Heart Huckabees."

      
    I HEART HUCKABEES
    Directed by: David O. Russell.
    Written by: David O. Russell, Jeff Baena.
    Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Isabelle Huppert, Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Jude Law, Mark Wahlberg, Naomi Watts, Angela Grillo, Ger Duany, Darlene Hunt, Kevin Dunn, Benny Hernandez, Richard Appel, Benjamin Nurick, Jake Muxworthy, Pablo Davanzo, Matthew Muzio, Shawn Patrick, Patrick M. Walsh, Tippi Hedren.
    Cinematography: Peter Deming.
    Edited by: Robert K. Lambert.

    Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
    Actually, wacky does begin to describe the film. And continues to describe it. And ends up describing it. Some might say wacky is all the film is: deliberately so, plainly so, incoherently and quite possibly redundantly so. But is it good wacky or is it bad wacky (and might one person's former be another person's latter)?

    More to the point: Is "I Heart Huckabees" simply wacky for wacky's sake? I seem to think so. Is that necessarily a bad thing? If the alternatives include watching Jimmy Fallon and Queen Latifah yucking it up in a New York taxicab I most definitely think not.

    I Heart Huckabees  
    In "Huckabees," environmental activist Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman), head of the grassroots Open Spaces Coalition, is unnerved by a series of inexplicable coincidences involving a tall African and hires a husband-and-wife team of "existential detectives" (Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman) to figure out what, if anything, it all means. This investigation also re-examines Albert's adversarial relationship with Brad Stand (Jude Law), an executive for the Huckabees chain of Target-like superstores. (Brad has his corporate sights greedily set on a little pocket of terra firma that Albert has cordoned off ahead of the commercial giant's bulldozer.) Throw "the voice of Huckabees," Brad's perfect girlfriend with perfect girlfriend issues (Naomi Watts, delightfully dimpled), into the mix, plus a petroleum-denouncing fireman (Mark Wahlberg) and a vitriolic French therapist (Isabelle Huppert), and you've got a recipe for one serious nut job.

    Goodness knows what these performers thought of the script (co-written by Jeff Baena) when they first read it, but nevertheless each and every one throws himself or herseelf into the project whole "Heart"-edly, with only Hoffman (impaired by his Fab Four haircut) and Huppert (impaired by her poor command of the English language) coming up short. Law, all toothy plasticity, and Tomlin, with her quickening wit and withering gaze, give their very best, and Schwartzman (whose name you might remember from Wes Anderson's "Rushmore" — he played the prodigy Max Fischer) — is appropriately frustrated and perplexed as Albert.

      I Heart Huckabees
    What does it all mean? It's hard to tell, unless it's a pseudo-intellectual satire of pseudo-intellectualism, in which case it probably means everything (or nothing), but there are plenty of laughs to be had here even if you wind up dazed and confused amid the boundless existential soul-searching.

    In its drive for metaphysical humor, "I Heart Huckabees" manages to ask a lot of big, earthy questions about the Nature of the Universe and the Meaning of Life. But the burning question it fails to ask, let alone answer, is just when did we all start pronouncing that little love symbol as "heart"? (We used to love New York; now we heart Shih-Tzus!) Like the film's pieces of celluloid imagery that fall, mosaic-like, at perfunctory moments we've long since stripped this sanguine sign of its warmth and feel-good emotion — in short its human connection — and come to recognize it simply as the shape of things.

    Maybe that, when all is said and done, is what "Huckabees" is about.

    NOVEMBER 7, 2004
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK


    Reader comments on I Heart Huckabees:

  • huckabees   from kathi, Apr 21, 2005
  • huckabees   from handra, Aug 13, 2005
  • Your're Kidding?   from Lexi, Oct 11, 2005
  • Huckabees   from Laura, May 23, 2006

  • Post a comment on "I Heart Huckabees"