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Overall Rating

Awesome: 31.71%
Worth A Look44.72%
Average: 0.81%
Pretty Bad: 17.07%
Total Crap: 5.69%

11 reviews, 57 user ratings

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I Heart Huckabees
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by EricDSnider

"It needs help, but hey, don't we all?"
4 stars

“I Heart Huckabees” is the sort of self-consciously surreal comedy that Charlie Kaufman would write, a la “Being John Malkovich” or “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” In fact, I believe it would have benefited from Kaufman’s involvement, for writer/director David O. Russell – though clever as all get-out – can only occasionally wrangle all his odd elements into a cohesive film.

In this high-minded, everyone-is-connected comedy, we meet a variety of people who are, in fact, connected. Their common thread is the “existential detective” agency of Bernard (Dustin Hoffman) and Vivian Jaffe (Lily Tomlin), a rumpled, middle-aged, slightly daft married couple who investigate people’s lives for them, help them deconstruct themselves, and give them the means of finding peace in the world. Lots of people mistake them for therapists, an error which they and their clients find offensive.

Into Vivian and Bernard’s office walks Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman), a poet-activist who heads the local chapter of the Open Spaces Coalition, a tree-hugger movement that has recently been battling Huckabees. Huckabees is a chain of stores with a Target-esque visual style and a Wal-Mart-esque plan for world domination whose contribution to urban sprawl has made it unpopular in the public eye. Albert and Open Spaces have struck a deal with Huckabees, fronted by the super-smooth Brad Stand (Jude Law), to save a particular wetland area, thus preserving some nature for Open Spaces and giving Huckabees some positive P.R.

But that’s not what Albert is concerned about. What’s aroused his curiosity is the coincidence of running into the same tall African man on three occasions around town. He wants the existential detectives to find out what the coincidence means – for surely everything in life means something – and solve the mystery for him. Vivian and Bernard begin surveillance of Albert, insisting some detail of his daily routine must hold the key, and in so doing begin to offer advice and guidance on the other, non-African-stranger parts of Albert’s existence – his jealousy of Brad Stand (who has wrested control of Open Spaces from him), and his awkward relationship with his parents, for example.

Meanwhile, Brad Stand and his girlfriend, Huckabees model Dawn Campbell (Naomi Watts), learn of Vivian and Bernard’s services and philosophies and come to embrace them, with varied results. In addition, Albert is teamed up with Tommy Corn (Mark Wahlberg), a fireman on a similar path who is led astray by Caterine Vauban (Isabelle Huppert), a rogue existential detective who preaches nihilism and randomness – the opposite of the Jaffes’ everything-means-something belief system.

The film hopscotches from one set of characters to the next, passing the point of view along like a baton. It does so merrily and cheerfully, finding comedy in the Jaffes’ old-married-couple sentence-finishing, in a run-in with the strange African man’s adoptive born-again-Christian family, in the effect that Dawn’s new-found beliefs have on her sense of fashion. (Think bonnets.)

Jason Schwartzman is, as always, a nerdy, affable leading man, and a comic actor able to hold his own with the likes of Lily Tomlin. Witness this exchange, made 10 times funnier by Tomlin and Schwartzman’s delivery:

VIVIAN: Have you ever transcended time and space?
ALBERT: Yes. No. Time, not space. No, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

But the film gets weirder as it goes, particularly in Caterine’s relationship with her new disciples Tommy and Albert, which takes an unexplained twist that involves pushing each other’s faces in the mud. (I have not even mentioned the part where Tommy and Albert hit each other in the face with large rubber balls.)

Whatever Russell is ultimately trying to say, he does a better job at trying our patience. We are accustomed to smart comedies with punchy dialogue that require some effort; but we are also used to that effort being rewarded in the end with some sort of payoff or resolution. “I heart Huckabees” is quirky enough for me to recommend it -- Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin are especially a treat -- but its self-satisfied braininess diminishes what could have been a truly wonderful film.

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originally posted: 11/01/04 13:27:52
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Mill Valley Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Mill Valley Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Leeds Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Leeds Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/11/13 BB I love this movie. It's one of my all time favorites. Just funny. 5 stars
6/27/11 DR A hugely misguided philosophy that fails to satisfy itself within its running time. 1 stars
5/30/10 Roy Unsatisfing and basically random, fails as drama since people don't act like this. 2 stars
3/20/10 OHjAwdl JscaOGTU 1 stars
7/31/08 Ramone Gets better with each viewing - great cast, esp. Wahlberg. 4 stars
3/08/08 pin Wes Anderson meets Charlie Kaufman, sort of. 4 stars
7/11/07 Hello Stranger although dumbed down on thie matter, it is very original. made me think alot! 5 stars
7/10/06 Marty watch it as a parody and it's a lot of absurd fun 5 stars
7/04/06 Ashley Hinz Absolute Trash, I could not finish it. Took it out after less than 10 minutes. 1 stars
3/11/06 Tanya very good very funny 5 stars
2/21/06 Agent Sands Hilarious. Hilarious. Hilarious. Hilarious. Hilarious. 5 stars
2/01/06 chris. people need to read philosophy before hailing this as groundbreaking...but i like it 4 stars
12/14/05 Ewok Best of 2004. Law should have won an Oscar. Best score ever. 5 stars
12/13/05 Citizen Kane C-R-A-P! this movie should be erased!!! 1 stars
12/09/05 millersxing the damn movie crawls inside my head and lays eggs. 5 stars
10/27/05 Lizz Brilliant timing, unprentious sophistication, fun! 5 stars
9/05/05 Mike Simon got it. This film = read everything as fast as possible. Understand? Of course not! 1 stars
8/19/05 ES I'll second Simon's decree 2 stars
7/25/05 Bad Critic Hoffman and Schwartzman are great, but the plot is sort-of hard to follow. 4 stars
6/10/05 Simon This intellectual-bullshit movie is too in love with itself to have any cinematic merit. 2 stars
6/08/05 Agent Sands A very creative and interesting film. Isabelle Huppert gave me a boner, which isn't usual. 5 stars
5/25/05 Jake Funny, Bizarre, and brilliant. 5 stars
5/16/05 Indrid Cold Funny, thought-provoking but uneven in tone and pacing. 4 stars
5/14/05 BoyInTheDesignerBubble One day will be a cult hit like Harold & Maude. 4 stars
5/07/05 Who Am I? Pretentious? For dumbed-down ignorant fools maybe, but a great film for the rest of us 4 stars
5/01/05 Mike Hawk Sublime film balancing metaphysics and comedy 5 stars
4/25/05 OverTheRainbow It's movie that makes you think; by the third time, maybe you will get it 4 stars
3/26/05 hannaho Hilariously transcendental! 4 stars
3/15/05 steandric with naomi watts in a brilliant comic role, nothing can go wrong with this film. 5 stars
3/05/05 chris. warning: you might have to actually use your BRAIN when you watch this movie. not for all! 5 stars
3/05/05 Matthew Studley Worthless piece of garbage. Don't mistake lack of talent for genius. 1 stars
2/26/05 strangelows pretentious, self-indulgent and rather boring crap 2 stars
12/27/04 Steve I was very bored by this movie, despite quality cinemetography. 2 stars
12/20/04 David Alexander All dialogue not funny very sick good actors bad film 1 stars
12/18/04 AL JOHNSON A clever,refreshingly different film.My faith in the film industy is restored. 5 stars
12/06/04 Jimmy Kustes I second the Jon Brion comment 5 stars
11/10/04 maximus Really funny but odd 4 stars
11/09/04 scooter The Soundtrack by Jon Brion is awesome! 5 stars
11/07/04 Elena If you didn't appreciate this you are intellectually devoid. A masterpiece! 5 stars
10/28/04 Amy Brilliant, but not for dumbed-down audiences! 5 stars
10/28/04 Lily superb: when brad&albert circle after al sees brad cry, centraly illustrates we are All One 5 stars
10/27/04 Mike H. This film is one of the most enjoyable,entertaining and thought provoking I have seen. 5 stars
10/26/04 ajay funny at parts, but it was a little too abstract for me. 2 stars
10/25/04 Jay Finally a movie worth the $9.00 admission price! 5 stars
10/25/04 Titus Not quite as satisfying as it promised, but a thoroughly worthy film. 4 stars
10/24/04 DM Fucking weird but surprisingly funny 4 stars
10/23/04 Kristen Hannum Brilliant fillm - funny, moving, thought-provoking. A feast for the confused. 5 stars
10/23/04 jcjs loved it 5 stars
10/15/04 Donanymous If you didn't like this movie, you're just too dumb to get it. It was brilliant!! 5 stars
10/13/04 Sherry original, funny, terrific cast, but a lot of work. 4 stars
10/13/04 makafka Liked the opening credits music, but the movie was just plain flat. 2 stars
10/12/04 asina one of those movies made only to get good reviews. 2 stars
10/11/04 A. Forbes totally unique. genius, if you ever read jps. 5 stars
10/08/04 Paul G. An new new cult film destined for deconstruction thru caffinated anaylsis with enthusiasm 5 stars
10/05/04 Amyjo Marsh Unfunny, pompous, pretentious, full of itself, and way, way too long 2 stars
9/12/04 Gregory Really funny and smart 5 stars
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  01-Oct-2004 (R)
  DVD: 22-Feb-2005



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