I Heart Huckabees 1.0 stars

A self-declared Existential Comedy revolving around the personal crisis of an environmental activist (Jason Schwartzman), currently getting squeezed out of the Open Spaces Coalition by his duplicitous but much better-looking and more charismatic colleague (Jude Law), who is literally sleeping with the enemy, the cheerleader-perky spokesmodel (Naomi Watts) of the expansionist Huckabees department store: "The Everything Store." The impetus of the crisis, or the impetus of the plot anyway, is the business card of an Existential Detective agency fortuitously found in the pocket of a loaner sport coat at a jackets-required restaurant. The question the client wants answered is the meaning of three separate sightings of a beanpole black man -- it can't just be coincidence, can it? -- but the husband-and-wife detective team (Dustin Hoffman in a gray Beatles wig and the slyly deadpan Lily Tomlin), tackling their 353rd case in seventeen years of operation, are more interested in the larger issues of their client's identity and his place in the grand scheme of things. Rounding out the cast of characters are the client's assigned "buddy" (Mark Wahlberg), an anti-petroleum fanatic who, in his job as a firefighter, conscientiously bicycles to the source of the alarm, and a renegade disciple of our detectives (Isabelle Huppert), a French nihilist whose antithetical business card reads, "Cruelty. Manipulation. Meaninglessness." Though the movie boots around Buddhist truths to do with the interconnectedness of everything in the universe, the oneness of humanity, the sameness of opposites, and so on, it is, in its heart of hearts, a typical piece of American commercialism hell-bent on supplying constant diversion: nervous, anxious, restless, relentless. Perhaps the nervousness, the anxiety, etc., make better sense when you observe that Huckabees is the first film in five years by David O. Russell (Three Kings, Flirting with Disaster, Spanking the Monkey, in reverse order) and that he has a reputation to maintain. Or to resuscitate. The trendy ideas in this high-brow Three Stooges comedy, this metaphysical Thin Man mystery, might give you the feeling of often being on the verge of something -- something quite different, something special, something unique -- without ever really crossing over the verge. 2004.

Duncan Shepherd

This movie is not currently in theaters.


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