I Heart Huckabees

on October 01, 2004 by Kevin Courrier
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At first, "I Heart Huckabees" is a fascinating existential mystery about an environmental activist and poet, Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman), who is trying to find the cosmic connection to a series of coincidental encounters. To do so, he seeks out the help of an existential detective agency led by Bernard Jaffe (Dustin Hoffman) and his wife and business partner Vivian (Lily Tomlin). They happily take on his case and begin to study the clues to his life.

Unfortunately, Russell quickly dumps this promising premise. He diverts his attention instead to the rivalry between Albert and his nemesis, Brad Stand (Jude Law), a corporate stooge at Huckabees, a megafranchise about to build a new store on land that Albert is trying to protect. From there, "I Heart Huckabees" descends into a chaotic, shambling satire. When we're finally introduced to Tommy (Mark Wahlberg), a fireman who has grown tired of Bernard and Vivian's purposeful philosophy and has adopted the nihilistic stance of their counterpart, French theorist Catherine Vauban (Isabelle Huppert), the calamity becomes quite tiresome.

When he works within solidly grounded material like "Flirting with Disaster" and "Three Kings," Russell's jaw-dropping visual imagination really takes flight. "I Heart Huckabees," with its glib hipness, suggests something dreamed up by Wes Anderson ("Rushmore," "The Royal Tennenbaums"). Without a cohesive story, the actors desperately flail about. Schwartzman (the star of "Rushmore") is annoyingly narcissistic; Law and Watts chew up enough scenery to clear a forest; and Hoffman and Tomlin get lost in the fray. Since the corporate heads, the environmentalists and the philosophers all end up as fools, it's tough to figure out just what Russell is satirizing here. In spite of talk about finding a cosmic connection, "I Heart Huckabees" doesn't seem to know how to walk a straight line. Starring Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Jason Schwartzman, Isabelle Huppert, Jude Law, Naomi Watts and Mark Wahlberg. Directed by David O. Russell. Written by David O. Russell and Jeff Baena. Produced by David O. Russell, Gregory Goodman and Scott Rudin. A Fox Searchlight release. Comedy/Drama. Rated R for language and a sex scene. Running time: 106 min

Tags: Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Jason Schwartzman, Isabelle Huppert, Jude Law, Naomi Watts and Mark Wahlberg. Directed by David O. Russell. Written by David O. Russell and Jeff Baena. Produced by David O. Russell, Gregory Goodman and Scott Rudin. A Fox Searchlight release. Comedy/Drama, envionmentalists, philosophers, cosmic, rivalry
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