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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

I Heart Huckabees (2004)


Just live life, don’t think too much and shut up! There, just saved you a near-two hours!

Environmental activist Albert (Jason Schwartzman) is the type of guy you just have to feel bad for. He’s the type that means well, but nothing ever seems to be working out well for him to the point of where he could just finally relax for a little bit. But nope, that is not the case, especially since he’s practically getting screwed over by a major corporation called Huckabees, mainly the head of P.R., Brad Stand (Jude Law). Brad practically promised Albert that he would save a huge part of land so that they could plant all sorts of trees and beautiful things, however, Brad doesn’t care about that and just wants his money, so he plans on just planting a huge shopping-mall instead, with Huckabees dead in the center of it all. Albert’s pissed about that, but he’s also worried about these strange run-ins he continues to have with this tall, African American man, that he automatically thinks are more than just sheer coincidences, they might just give meaning to his whole life in the past, present and the future. That’s where “Existential Detectives” Vivian and Bernard (Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman) come in and try to help him figure it all out, but since Albert’s a bit of a spastic nutcase, not everything goes as smoothly as planned.

Let”s just start things off on the right foot here: The movie is a mess, but it’s an intriguing mess, much like life is. There’s the hook, now on with the rest of this review.

They aren't supposed to be doing that, right? So therefore, it just HAS to be funny!

They aren’t supposed to be doing that, right? So therefore, it just HAS to be funny!

David O. Russell may be a very talented film maker and from what we’ve seen in these past couple of years, he’s really shown himself to be something of a man who can handle anything big or large. Sure, he’s had his freak outs many, many times before, but he’s made it clear that if you give him a huge cast, with a relatively simple, yet complex story, he can work wonders. However, when the story seems to be more than just simple and way more than just complex, then it becomes painfully clear that he can’t really hold his own and has to rely on his usually well-chosen casts. Which, once again, isn’t all that bad to begin with since everybody he gets to be apart of his ensembles are all great and do magnificent in his flicks, it’s just that there needs to be more substance to these stars doing shop, and regardless of what you may think with this material, there is no substance here. Please, do not be fooled.

See, while people will probably go out there and say, “this movie speaks volumes because of the types of questions it asks us about our current-existence, the lives we live and the world we live in”, is all a bunch of bologna. The movie seems so damn pleased with itself that it’s more than just your traditional, quirky comedy; instead, it’s asking bigger questions, that have to deal with bigger issues most people don’t get to thinking about on a day-to-day basis. There’s nothing wrong with thinking outside of the box either, it just has to be done right. Almost in the way in which Charlie Kaufman writes his movies: Strange, quirky and off-kilter, yet wholly insightful, emotional and more than meets the eyes.

David O. Russell, as much as it may surprise some, is no Charlie Kaufman and doesn’t have the ability to make this movie more than just a series of pretentious, heavy-thinking discussions about our existence on this planet. Those are the types of questions that usually come popping right up when a bunch of pals are saddled-around the campfire, smoking on the peace pipe, and that’s probably exactly where they should stay, especially if O. Russell’s going to be discussing them. I feel bad for getting on his case so much, because while there are some funny bits and pieces here, they mainly all stem from the fact that what’s happening on screen to cause these small pieces of laughter, is just because they’re pure random. Plain and simple. They don’t really work well towards the story or the type of message the movie is trying to get across (which is painfully clear, or not, who knows, who cares), and just seem like a bunch of crazy ideas O. Russell had rocking around in his mind and decided to go for the gull with here. Sometimes it works and amounts to nothing, sometimes it doesn’t and it just makes you feel bad for everybody involved.

Especially the cast. This poor, poor cast.

Better yet, I should just say poor Jason Schwartzman, because while I usually find him hilarious and entertaining to watch in whatever the hell it is that he pops up in, I couldn’t help but see him as annoying here. He always seemed to bitch and complain about everything in his life, never seemed like an actual character, with dimensions or emotions and seemed like the perfect type of guy that O. Russell could use as the straight-man for all of these over-the-top and crazy performances to play off of. And in that general aspect, the man gets what he wants, however, some of them fall short.

They're all jealous, Mark. Don't listen to 'em.

They’re all jealous, Mark. Don’t listen to ‘em.

Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman come close to, but keep their heads afloat playing the two Existential Detectives, who basically just serve as Albert’s self-conscious; letting him know what’s right, what’s wrong, what does it all mean and how he can move on in his life, the right way. Together, they form a fiery and fun chemistry, but their roles do begin to get a bit repetitive, as they seemed to be saying the same things, over and over again, just with different phrasing and mannerisms. Jude Law also gets the bad-end of the straw as the sleazy Brad Stand, though he definitely relishes in the moment of playing somebody that would be as mean and detestable as a man of his looks golly-good looks would be. Naomi Watts seems to really be loving her time as Tom’s girlfriend, the scantily-clad model for Huckabees, and gets most of the laughs from her side of the spectrum. Worked wonders for her role, especially once her character goes through her own existential crisis and as you could expect, some hilarity ensues.

The only time actual hilarity within this movie does ensue, is whenever Mark Wahlberg shows up to steal the spotlight as Tommy, the oddball firefighter who drives everywhere in his bike, has something against petroleum, likes to start fistfights anywhere he goes, with whomever he sees and just seems to want to get his point across, by any means imaginable. Yeah, he seems like he’d be the most grating character on display here, but Wahlberg somehow gets him by on sheer charisma and willingness to make himself seem dumb. It’s very rare where you’d get a very good-looking guy like Wahlberg, who’d actually be willing to participate in something as strange as this, playing an even stranger character than we’d ever seen him play before, and trudge all trudge all the way to the finish line with it, while making us laugh all along the way. Wahlberg’s obviously shown his love for comedy in the past couple of years, but this was when he showed the world that he was more than just a nice set of guns, a catchy-as-hell song and a wonderful way of saying hello to mothers, he could actually entertain you and steal the show from heavyweights like Hoffman, Tomlin and yes, even Isabelle Huppert! Not even going to acknowledge the shock in that statement, I’ll let you take that one for me.

Consensus: There may be some moments of actual comedy to be found in I Heart Huckabees, but most of them are scattered across a slap-shot script, full of pretentious ideas and performances from a very talented cast that don’t add up to much, even while they’d probably work wonders in a way better, less preachy movie.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Not even the sight of Shania could save the day.

Not even the sight of Shania could save the day.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJobloComingSoon.net

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19 responses to “I Heart Huckabees (2004)

  1. ninvoid99 December 9, 2013 at 5:26 am

    I think this is a very underrated film. It’s so off-the-wall about the idea of existentialism. It all means something where you want to reject an idea but there’s also the possibility of something more. Mark Wahlberg I think was unfairly snubbed in this film because he was really the balance between these two different spectrums of optimism and nihilism. Plus, I love the stuff where Naomi Watts rebels against her image as well as Jude Law’s own revelation.

    • CMrok93 December 9, 2013 at 3:40 pm

      Some of the stuff was good and actually had me interested. But most of the time, it just felt like a bunch of yammering from some really talented people, who don’t ever seem to believe what it is that they’re saying.

  2. mmonty86 December 9, 2013 at 6:21 am

    Im likely in the minority here, but I love this. It is certainly messy, but I enjoy its bonkers energy. Like you intimated, Wahlberg is the best part of the film.

  3. thomasjford December 9, 2013 at 9:11 am

    It’s been years since I saw it, but I remember thinking it was a mess, but quite a good mess. Another one to chuck on the re-watch pile by the sounds of it!

  4. cindybruchman December 9, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    I liked it more than you did. The mess didn’t bother me and the cast was fun to watch. Nice review.

  5. ckckred December 9, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    Nice review. I felt the same way as you; the script was scattered and disorganized and the movie grew pretentious after a while. I probably owe it a rewatch though.

  6. Popcorn Nights December 9, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    I’m in agreement too – found it to be all over the place and I remember it ended up getting on my nerves…although I saw it on a flight, which is never the most relaxing place to watch a film in the first place. Nice review.

  7. Olie December 9, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    How am I not myself? How am I not myself.

  8. Pierce Nahigyan December 9, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    I think you hit the nail on the head by saying Russell’s no Charlie Kaufman. When I saw this in theatres eons ago I remember being very confused because it seemed like it was trying to be either a Wes Anderson film or a Kaufman film, or both, and it was neither.

  9. Chronic Chronicler December 9, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    Hello there! I just thought you would like to know that I have nominated you for the Sunshine Award!

    http://chronicchronicler.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/the-last-final-final-and-last-sunshine-award/

  10. Sarah Allen December 10, 2013 at 1:20 am

    Interesting review. As a huge fan of Dustin Hoffman, I think I I might try and see this one at some point.

    Sarah Allen
    (From Sarah, with Joy)

  11. Nicole December 10, 2013 at 2:52 am

    Hey Dan O. I see that you comment on my blog (Confessions of a Female Filmmaker) quite often and I would like to thank you for that. You seem to be the only one and I am very appreciative that you read and have thoughts on what I write. You have an AMAZING blog and a great following and I am excited to read some of your past reviews and keep up with your new ones!

    If anyone has any interest in my most recent post here it is! http://nicoledavisfilm.blogspot.com/2013/12/from-archives-philosophical-look-at-i.html

    Thanks!

  12. Lights Camera Reaction December 19, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    “There may be some moments of actual comedy to be found in I Heart Huckabees, but most of them are scattered across a slap-shot script,”

    Spot on. I have the exact same opinion. There’s a lot to be admired here, but the script fell flat for me, and I grew tired of it quickly.

    Nice review!

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