|I Heart Huckabees
2004 - R - 106 Mins.
|Director: David O. Russell
|Producer: Michael Kuhn
|Written By: David O. Russell
|Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Jude Law, Naomi Watts, Mark Wahlberg, Isabelle Huppert
|Review by: Joe Rickey
|Official Site: www.huckabees.com
Environmental activist Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman) is suffering from a crisis of the existential variety so he hires the husband and wife team of Vivian and Bernard Jaffe (Lily Tomlin, Dustin Hoffman) to solve the problem. This entails them spying on him during every aspect of his life. What they discover is a man who detests the Huckabees chain of department stores and its incessant need to expand while destroying wildlife in the process. More specifically, he harbors a mix of hatred and jealousy towards Huckabee executive Brad Stand (Jude Law). He secretly wishes he were Brad because the man is dating Dawn Campbell (Naomi Watts), the gorgeous Huckabees spokesmodel/mascot of sorts. Things become complicated when Stand himself hires the detectives to investigate his life and, later, a competing detective/life coach (Isabelle Huppert) gets involved.
Love the hair.
‘I Heart Huckabees’ tries in vain to be both smart and witty, succeeding for the first half hour of drawing the viewer into its increasingly strange world before detaching the viewer through a screenplay that soon overflows with alternately needy and quirky characters that are thoroughly unlikable. Not even a stellar cast can keep the film afloat.
Writer/director David O. Russell (‘Three Kings’) no doubt wanted to fashion a comedy that is replete with characters that are endearing in all their quirkiness and an intelligence not often seen in film as the various characters spout off on such obscure philosophical ideas/references as Plato’s Cave analogy and various ideas expounded long ago by Socrates. Attempts at comedy are interjected into this framework but they all fall flat and the references come so far out of left field they will leave most every viewer dumbfounded. Russell seemed to go into the film with the idea of putting to use all of his research on philosophical ideas without any thought as to how they would actually work in the confines of a film that masquerades as a “comedy” when, in fact, there is very little that is humorous about this film.
Sadly, the performances are not even very good considering the talent involved. As the lead, Schwartzman is unlikable from frame one. He comes across as whiny and over the top in practically every scene; trying to get laughs through the random use of vulgar language and creepy behavior. As the superficial Brad Stand, Jude Law is also whiny at times but he fares a little better than Schwartzman if only because his character is not in basically every scene of the film. As the detectives, Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin garner what few laughs there are in the film through sheer will it seems because the screenplay does not really give them any sharp lines per se. Naomi Watts isn’t really given much to do aside from looking good modeling various styles of clothing, which she admittedly does quite well:). In small supporting roles, Huppert and Mark Wahlberg do not make much of an impression because they seem content to give overly bland performances.
To put it simply, I’d rather be chained to a pipe in the basement of a madman than sit through ‘I Heart Huckabees’ again.