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Overall Rating

Awesome: 31.71%
Worth A Look44.72%
Just Average: 0.81%
Pretty Crappy: 17.07%
Sucks: 5.69%

11 reviews, 57 user ratings

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I Heart Huckabees
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by Robert Flaxman

"I don't 'Heart' pointless quirks."
2 stars

Very few directors have dared to undertake a project this ambitious in the history of film. By "ambitious" I mean that director and co-writer David O. Russell has made a movie in which there are a number of principal characters, and none of them are actually integral to the story.

For that matter, the story isn't integral to the story. In fact, the only things that actually seem to matter in I Heart Huckabees are the quirks. Russell appears to be playing a game of oneupmanship with himself as regards the film's weirdness quotient, which starts out fairly high and climbs only higher for the better part of two hours.

Trying to explain the characters' roles seems like a relatively fruitless endeavor. Albert (Jason Schwartzman) goes to two "existential detectives", the husband and wife team of Bernard (Dustin Hoffman) and Vivian (Lily Tomlin), to investigate a series of coincidences he's been having. It turns out that a lot of Albert's problems can be traced to his jealousy of Brad (Jude Law), an executive at Huckabees, "the everything store." Brad is dating spokesmodel Dawn (Naomi Watts). Albert falls in with Tommy (Mark Wahlberg), who is abandoning Bernard and Vivian's philosophy in favor of the nihilistic approach of Caterine (Isabelle Huppert).

The question is, what do all these things really have to do with each other? Russell does a decent enough job of intertwining all the different stories, but where everything is leading is a bit thornier. The plot, with its pop-philosophical machinations, just seems like a vehicle for the increasingly bizarre setpieces (perhaps the peak of the film's insanity comes in a scene in which Albert and Caterine engage in foreplay by covering each other in mud in the middle of a marsh).

Even if we decide to take the plot at more or less face value and not merely as a conduit for the strange, it's unclear whether or not Russell intends the audience to buy into what his characters are pushing. Is everyone in the universe connected? Is everything important, or is nothing important?

It's kind of hard to take the director of the cynical Three Kings at face value here. Things spin out of control for a while, but Bernard and Vivian's philosophy, which the film seems to be pushing as closest to the right one, is pretty light and fluffy, and frankly sounds like a pretty standard bunch of New Age mumbo-jumbo. If Russell is poking fun at his characters, though, there's very little indication to be found, except insofar as it feels surprising that the film would be as saccharine as it would have to be if it's taking them seriously.

When Huckabees finally winds to a close, it proves unsatisfying. What has Albert learned? If he's learned anything, how did he actually manage to learn it, and what does it really mean in the context of the plot? Very little in Huckabees seems capable of justifying the craziness, save perhaps a couple of scenes near the end that pay off the relationship between Albert and Brad. These would be better if they really tied the film together, but instead this strand feels like a weak justification for doing a lot of quirky stuff and calling it existentialism.

It would also help if Russell had ever given any reason to care about any of the characters, but he never seems interested in doing that. These characters aren't people, they're cutouts, designed not to mirror real life but to act in a 21st-century version of an Ionesco play. Why Russell doesn't feel the audience should be able to identify with anyone onscreen is unclear, but it bolsters the hypothesis that he's just out to be weird, and that the philosophical window dressing is just that.

Despite all this, I Heart Huckabees is relatively enjoyable to watch, in a general sense. The actors are by and large at the top of their games, which always helps. The plot may be a swirling mass of nonsense, but many of the individual scenes are fun on their own merit, even if they don't fit well into any overarching system.

Still, in the end, there just doesn't seem to be anything behind Huckabees. A triumph of silliness over substance, it manages to have some fun on a small scale, but there's nothing to prop up the best of the zany setpieces except more setpieces that aren't as good. Russell may have set out to make a film about philosophy, but I Heart Huckabees is long on quirk and much too short on ideas.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10446&reviewer=385
originally posted: 10/09/04 17:35:13
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Mill Valley Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Mill Valley Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Leeds Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Leeds Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/11/13 BB I love this movie. It's one of my all time favorites. Just funny. 5 stars
6/26/11 DR A hugely misguided philosophy that fails to satisfy itself within its running time. 1 stars
5/29/10 Roy Unsatisfing and basically random, fails as drama since people don't act like this. 2 stars
3/19/10 OHjAwdl JscaOGTU 1 stars
7/31/08 Ramone Gets better with each viewing - great cast, esp. Wahlberg. 4 stars
3/08/08 pin Wes Anderson meets Charlie Kaufman, sort of. 4 stars
7/11/07 Hello Stranger although dumbed down on thie matter, it is very original. made me think alot! 5 stars
7/09/06 Marty watch it as a parody and it's a lot of absurd fun 5 stars
7/03/06 Ashley Hinz Absolute Trash, I could not finish it. Took it out after less than 10 minutes. 1 stars
3/10/06 Tanya very good very funny 5 stars
2/20/06 Agent Sands Hilarious. Hilarious. Hilarious. Hilarious. Hilarious. 5 stars
1/31/06 chris. people need to read philosophy before hailing this as groundbreaking...but i like it 4 stars
12/14/05 Ewok Best of 2004. Law should have won an Oscar. Best score ever. 5 stars
12/12/05 Citizen Kane C-R-A-P! this movie should be erased!!! 1 stars
12/09/05 millersxing the damn movie crawls inside my head and lays eggs. 5 stars
10/26/05 Lizz Brilliant timing, unprentious sophistication, fun! 5 stars
9/04/05 Mike Simon got it. This film = read everything as fast as possible. Understand? Of course not! 1 stars
8/18/05 ES I'll second Simon's decree 2 stars
7/24/05 Bad Critic Hoffman and Schwartzman are great, but the plot is sort-of hard to follow. 4 stars
6/10/05 Simon This intellectual-bullshit movie is too in love with itself to have any cinematic merit. 2 stars
6/08/05 Agent Sands A very creative and interesting film. Isabelle Huppert gave me a boner, which isn't usual. 5 stars
5/24/05 Jake Funny, Bizarre, and brilliant. 5 stars
5/15/05 Indrid Cold Funny, thought-provoking but uneven in tone and pacing. 4 stars
5/13/05 BoyInTheDesignerBubble One day will be a cult hit like Harold & Maude. 4 stars
5/06/05 Who Am I? Pretentious? For dumbed-down ignorant fools maybe, but a great film for the rest of us 4 stars
5/01/05 Mike Hawk Sublime film balancing metaphysics and comedy 5 stars
4/24/05 OverTheRainbow It's movie that makes you think; by the third time, maybe you will get it 4 stars
3/25/05 hannaho Hilariously transcendental! 4 stars
3/14/05 steandric with naomi watts in a brilliant comic role, nothing can go wrong with this film. 5 stars
3/04/05 chris. warning: you might have to actually use your BRAIN when you watch this movie. not for all! 5 stars
3/04/05 Matthew Studley Worthless piece of garbage. Don't mistake lack of talent for genius. 1 stars
2/25/05 strangelows pretentious, self-indulgent and rather boring crap 2 stars
12/26/04 Steve I was very bored by this movie, despite quality cinemetography. 2 stars
12/19/04 David Alexander All dialogue not funny very sick good actors bad film 1 stars
12/18/04 AL JOHNSON A clever,refreshingly different film.My faith in the film industy is restored. 5 stars
12/05/04 Jimmy Kustes I second the Jon Brion comment 5 stars
11/09/04 maximus Really funny but odd 4 stars
11/08/04 scooter The Soundtrack by Jon Brion is awesome! 5 stars
11/06/04 Elena If you didn't appreciate this you are intellectually devoid. A masterpiece! 5 stars
10/28/04 Amy Brilliant, but not for dumbed-down audiences! 5 stars
10/27/04 Lily superb: when brad&albert circle after al sees brad cry, centraly illustrates we are All One 5 stars
10/27/04 Mike H. This film is one of the most enjoyable,entertaining and thought provoking I have seen. 5 stars
10/25/04 ajay funny at parts, but it was a little too abstract for me. 2 stars
10/24/04 Jay Finally a movie worth the $9.00 admission price! 5 stars
10/24/04 Titus Not quite as satisfying as it promised, but a thoroughly worthy film. 4 stars
10/24/04 DM Fucking weird but surprisingly funny 4 stars
10/23/04 Kristen Hannum Brilliant fillm - funny, moving, thought-provoking. A feast for the confused. 5 stars
10/23/04 jcjs loved it 5 stars
10/15/04 Donanymous If you didn't like this movie, you're just too dumb to get it. It was brilliant!! 5 stars
10/12/04 Sherry original, funny, terrific cast, but a lot of work. 4 stars
10/12/04 makafka Liked the opening credits music, but the movie was just plain flat. 2 stars
10/12/04 asina one of those movies made only to get good reviews. 2 stars
10/11/04 A. Forbes totally unique. genius, if you ever read jps. 5 stars
10/07/04 Paul G. An new new cult film destined for deconstruction thru caffinated anaylsis with enthusiasm 5 stars
10/05/04 Amyjo Marsh Unfunny, pompous, pretentious, full of itself, and way, way too long 2 stars
9/12/04 Gregory Really funny and smart 5 stars
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  01-Oct-2004 (R)
  DVD: 22-Feb-2005



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