I [Heart] Huckabees

I [Heart] Huckabees bills itself as an 'existential comedy,' and it is in that there are lots of heady ideas flying around. The problem is that while the concepts espoused by the various characters do make sense in terms of the story, the film itself is trying too hard to be funny. It feels like there is a conscious effort by the filmmakers and the cast to make Huckabees as smart and wacky as possible. The issue now is that everybody knows what director David O. Russell (Soldier's Pay, Three Kings) is trying to do. Russell was going for something along the lines of a Spike Jonze movie like Adaptation or Being John Malkovich, where the weirdness is more organic, and less manufactured. There is an artificiality about Huckabees that drags the viewer out of the movie. Still, I [Heart] Huckabees is an amusing ride through the lives of some very confused people.

Huckabees is a giant retail corporation along the lines of Target or Wal-Mart. They open large stores, much to the consternation of Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman, Spun, Simone), founder of Open Spaces, an environmental group opposed to urban sprawl. To combat Huckabees, Markovski plants trees and writes bad poetry in protest, usually to little avail. He is extremely miffed that Brad Stand (Jude Law, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Cold Mountain), all-around pretty boy and spokesman for Huckabees, co-opted Open Spaces from him and now leads the group. This, combined with the fact that Markovski has seen the same African man three times, causes him to wonder if something deeper is happening. He goes to Jaffe & Jaffe, an existential detective firm to help him sort through his issues.

Bernard (Dustin Hoffman, Moonlight Mile, Runaway Jury) and Vivian Jaffe (Orange County, The Kid) help people by first spying on them. They believe that everything is connected, and everything is the same. By examining every aspect of Markovski's life, the Jaffe's can help him resolve his existential crisis. This sets up many amusing episodes of Bernard and Vivian appearing where they shouldn't (they will spy on Markovski "even in the bathroom"), usually obviously walking behind him. Stand decides he needs help too, which infuriates Markovski even more. It spreads to Stand's girlfriend and Huckabees spokesmodel Dawn (Naomi Watts, We Don't Live Here Anymore, 21 Grams), who is starting to wonder about her continual need to look beautiful.

The final and most amusing character in Russell and Jeff Baena's script is Tommy Corn (Mark Wahlberg, The Italian Job, The Truth About Charlie), a firefighter extremely concerned about the overuse of petroleum. He hates gasoline so much that he will ride his bike to a fire. His time with the Jaffes is straining his marriage, and to their horror he is reading and taking an interest in the works of Caterine Vauban (Isabelle Huppert, 8 Women, Merci Pour le Chocolat), an ex-student of the Jaffes who preaches the opposite - that nothing is connected. It all sounds very complicated and convoluted, but it isn't. In fact, at multiple times during the film, one character will begin spouting some philosophical mumbo-jumbo, and the character he or she is talking sit there confused.

The bulk of the film plays out like a wacky comedy. At times it feels like a live action Looney Tunes short. The Jaffes and Vauban are fighting for the minds of Markovski and Corn, Markovski is trying to regain control of Open Spaces, and Dawn is reevaluating her life with Stand. The characters yell, get into fights, and do all sorts of random things, to mostly humorous effect. The real surprise is Wahlberg, who usually cannot act his way out of anything, is marvelously fun to watch. Maybe because he is playing an angry oaf. Everybody seems to be having a lot of fun with their roles, and they are fun to watch, it's just that I [Heart] Huckabees is nowhere near as profound as Russell wanted. Fun, yes. Deep, not really.
Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 46 minutes, Rated R for language and a sex scene.

Back to Movies