A review of “I Heart Huckabees” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: * 1/2

Rating: R for language and sexual suggestion

Run Time: 1 hour, 46 minutes

 

 

Formerly fabulous director David O. Russell (Three Kings) takes a poke at Alice in Wonderland-brand cinema and fails miserably.

How am I not myself?  That’s just one of the fractured philosophies swirling around this absurdist comedy.  Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman) is an earnest, outspoken leader of the Open Spaces Coalition who has been experiencing a strange number of coincidences that lead him to seek help. 

In the capable hands of Existential Detectives Vivian and Bernard Jaffe (Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman), Albert is encouraged to examine the cosmic significance of the change: his life, his relationships, and an increasingly ugly conflict with Huckabees (think Target megastore) exec Brad Stand (Jude Law), a glad-handing corporate climber with an impressive set of pearly whites and a perpetual can-do attitude.

The Jaffes incessantly poke their noses into Albert’s personal stuff while Albert befriends troubled firefighter Tommy Corn (Mark Wahlberg), another Jaffe client who has moved to the dark side under the tutelage of Jaffe apostle cum sexy French nihilist Caterine Vauban (Isabelle Huppert).

Existentialism is not my cup of tea. I disliked Being John Malkovich and barely tolerated Waking Life.  Huckabees searches for its infinite nature while inspiring mass confusion and the desire for that long overdue nap.  Russell attempts to encrypt the truth with a slow and abstract hand, transporting characters and altered states with the spunk of a deadly game of Go Fish.

The film has its vaguely amusing moments, most of them centering on Stand squeeze Dawn Campbell (Naomi Watts), the vacuous blonde poster girl for the Huckabees chain.  Watts flourishes under Jaffe-brand counseling, dismantling her day-to-day reality and finding her bimbo rep not to her liking.

On the flip side are distasteful images bordering on the grotesque (Stand breast-feeding Albert as a hypothetical infant) and dull ruminations on the essence of being and self-discovery.  Zzzzzz.

Huckabees’ impressive ensemble cast is entirely wasted on this unkempt genre piece that may be taking a stand on environment vs. suburban sprawl or perhaps that bold philosophical puzzler “everything is the same, even if it’s different”.  Same or different, Huckabees is one of the most unlikable films of the year,