Reviewed by: Chris Monroe
|Featuring:||Jude Law, Naomi Watts, Mark Walberg, Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin|
|Director:||David O. Russell|
|Producer:||David O. Russell, Scott Rudin, Gregory Goodman|
|Distributor:||Fox Searchlight Pictures|
“An existential comedy”
Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “This ensemble comedy is about a married couple, the Jaffes (Hoffman, Tomlin), who work as detectives, helping people solve existential crises in their lives. For those not familiar with the philosophy-based term of “existential crisis,” some examples of such a crises would be a “mid-life crisis,” a “what am I doing with my life?” sort of hang up, “my life has been a mistake,” “my whole life is a joke,” etc.
Their first client in this movie is Albert Markovski (Schwartzman), who is experiencing angst because of his position at Huckabee’s, a popular chain of retail stores. Investigating his workplace, the Jaffes take on one of Albert’s coworkers, Brad Stand (Law) as a client as well, which leads them to investigate his girlfriend, Dawn Campbell (Watts), who is the spokesmodel in the Huckabees TV commercials.
Meanwhile, Albert teams up with an existential firefighter (Wahlberg) and a French radical (Huppert) out of frustration with the idea that the Jaffes are helping the very man who seems to be part of Albert’s existential crisis.”
“No manure, no magic” is one of the theories about life recited in this existential comedy “I Heart Huckabees.” This theory may be applied to this piece of entertainment, but it seems there is more manure than magic while offering a few laughs along with it.
Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman—“Rushmore”) decides to visit an “Existential Detective” Vivian (Lily Tomlin) to help him determine the reason for his recent coincidence and, further, to discover the meaning of the universe and why we exist.
Vivian and her partner, Bernard (Dustin Hoffman) willingly begin treating Albert, but go beyond what Albert is comfortable with when they begin interfering with his job at the super-American corporation “Huckabees”. Albert’s journey for answers brings him into friendship with Tommy Corn (Mark Wahlberg), a quasi-romance with another existential philosopher and to some kind of understanding with the Huckabees sales executive he has been contending, Brad Stand (Jude Law).
The very first lines of the film entail a voice-over with profuse profanity including twelve letter words and other offensive ideas. It is obviously done for shock value, but this kind of foul language also appears in various other parts of the movie. There is also one brief explicit moment of two people having sex. Everything is presented in a humorous fashion and, post modernly, doesn’t really try to adhere to any kind of moral universe.
Potentially, the most offensive scene would be where Albert and his friend Tommy eat dinner with a typical American Christian family. After the daughter recites the Lord’s Prayer before the meal, the discussion becomes a confrontation between Tommy and the father regarding issues of misusing oil and driving SUVs. At one point, the daughter interjects and states, “Jesus is never mad at us if we live with him in our hearts,” to which Tommy retorts, “Yes, He is. He most definitely is.” This scene is fairly early in Albert’s search for meaning, so the impression is that the writers wanted to bring up the idea of Christianity, only to tear it down and invalidate it.
The whole story is very absurdist and abstract and can also make you laugh. One moment involves Tommy and Albert performing a kind of therapy by hitting each other in the face with a large rubber ball. Tomlin and Hoffman are also entertaining in their dynamic duo antics, and Jude Law aptly develops his cocky salesman character without every going over the top. Wahlberg goes over the top, but makes his shtick work. Schwartzman (looking like Tom Cruise from “Magnolia”) gives a sharp performance, and builds on his ability to carry the role of the quirky main character. So much of the movie is philosophical ranting and raving and overwrought humorous drama that it really is a fun piece for these actors, providing most of the entertainment.
With hints of “Magnolia” and dashes of “Rushmore,” this film does carry some appreciative originality. The dialogue is well written and the characters well played. However, while the laughter is there, it is usually short-lived and overall doesn’t give you much to walk away with.
Violence: Minor / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Moderate