"I Heart Huckabees"
by Kevin Carr
|| MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)
Dustin Hoffman as BERNARD JAFFE
Isabelle Huppert as CATERINE VAUBAN
Jude Law as BRAD STAND
Jason Schwartzman as ALBERT MARKOVSKI
Lily Tomlin as VIVIAN JAFFE
Mark Wahlberg as TOM CORN
Naomi Watts as DAWN CAMPBELL
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Directed by: David O. Russell
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“I Heart Huckabees” is the latest from “Three Kings” director David O. Russell. The story follows an environmental activist who is fighting the suburban sprawl of the Huckabees corporation (basically a Wal-Mart of the movie world). He experiences a weird coincidence when he runs into the same man in three different random places. He hires two existential detectives (Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman) to help get his life, and his thoughts, in order.
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The cast is one of the greatest ensembles in recent memory, with excellent performances by Jason Schwartzman, Lily Tomlin, Mark Wahlberg and Dustin Hoffman. And taken scene-by-scene, it is a hilarious film. Imagine a firefighter riding his bike to a fire... or two grown men hitting each other in the face to achieve pure being... or a lone environmental activist trying to read a self-indulgent poem about a marsh while people want to talk about Shania Twain.... Hilarious!
But in this case, the sum of the parts are greater than the whole. While there are some genuinely funny moments where the characters struggle with the ultimate meaning of using something as simple as petroleum jelly, the story ends up collapsing under its own weight. I understand the existential philosophy, and I can bet a lot of the film came from late-night discussions that Russell had in his college days. You remember those conversations that were so deep back then and so meaningless now?
“I Heart Huckabees” reminds me of something a friend of mine once said about “Napoleon Dynamite”: It’s more fun to talk about the movie than to actually watch the movie.
I found myself falling into that mode a lot with this film. I didn’t think it had the same wit, charm and bite that was found in Russell’s “Flirting with Disaster,” but I can’t stop talking about the movie to random people.
When I step back and look at “I Heart Huckabees,” I don’t think it’s all that great. However, if I scan through the film, I find some absolutely hilarious moments in it that are as funny (if not funnier) than “Flirting with Disaster” or any other high-brow comedy.
Even if the story isn’t cohesive enough to be a great film, “I Heart Huckabees” is a great exhibition of hilarious talent. It’s nice to see Dustin Hoffman acting again instead of just phoning in his lines. Even the overexposed Jude Law steals a scene or two.
This DVD comes with few special features. There is a special edition out there, which even has two discs, but the floor model I’ve got only gives you two commentary tracks. They are really good commentaries, though. One features David O. Russell flying solo, while on the other he is joined with Jason Schwartzman and Mark Wahlberg, and he even calls Naomi Watts at one point to chime in.
One thing I discovered in listening to Russell’s commentary is that he took things much more seriously than I ever expected he did. I always looked at the film as showing the absurdity of people who are soul searching all the time. He makes a great parody of environmental activists and the in-fighting that occurs in their organizations. However, Russell shows his hand throughout the commentaries when he repeatedly says that the characters really have a lot of good things to say. I don’t know about that, but they are funny.
If you can get past all this, and some political posturing by Russell (who actually at one point blames the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 on Ronald Reagan, ‘cause there just weren’t any terrorism before 1980), he has a lot of cool things to say about the making of this film.
Specifications: Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound. Fullscreen (1.33:1) and widescreen (2.35:1) presentation. Spanish language track. Spanish subtitles. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.