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"I Heart Huckabees"

Directed by David O. Russell.
Written by David O. Russell and Jeff Baena.
Starring Jason Schwartzman, Dustin Hoffman, Jude Law and Naomi Watts.
Release Year:  2004
Review Date:  10/15/04


Well, it's official--I learned today that I really don't understand sheer genius when I see it unless it's wrapped in a raw slice of pork.

"I Heart Huckabees", another in the long line of "quirky independent films" that has about a half-dozen stars that have been the headliners in other flicks in the last couple of years, put me to fucking sleep about four times, because there was almost no semblance of a plot worth following for more than about five minutes.  While the film is entertaining in its first hour as we follow Albert (Jason Schwartzman, who's only really done "Rushmore") around his fairly messed-up situation as the head of an activist group, when the film gravitates away from the main plot and into other territory with a slew of other characters, I gravitated towards nappytime.

I use the word "plot" above quite loosely, because this is more a collection of scenes than anything I would call a film, since the existentialist theme of the work being done by the movie's lead detectives, Vivian (Lily Tomlin) and Bernard (Dustin Hoffman), is transferable to all of the stories of the lead characters, which include Albert, Brad (Jude Law), his girlfriend/company model Dawn (Naomi Watts), and a firefighter named Tommy (Mark Wahlberg).  When the movie is funny early on, it's really funny, thanks to the great energy provided by Wahlberg (as a near-psycho) and Schwartzman, who does just enough reacting to make things work here.  Schwartzman seems to always have just the right facial expression or verbal line of confusion required to make his scenes work.  My favorite number was a bit where Albert and Tommy go to visit the family of a large African man that Albert keeps running into while in public; man, Wahlberg was damned near winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor during that scene, it was so funny.

But, at a crucial point later in the movie, the focus of the film shifts from Albert to...every character in the movie up to that point, plus another existential detective (Isabelle Huppert), who seems to enjoy the mud.  At this point, I thought "I Heart Huckabees" went right down the shitter.  Nothing made any sense to me at this point, and I began to go in and out of slumber as I was bored by the Brad investigation being done by the lead detectives.  Then, the flick just kind of ends.


Now, as a history, I loved "Three Kings", also directed by "I Heart Huckabees" director David O. Russell; just a great movie from start to finish, with solid comedy, solid deep-thought-type drama, solid action...just a great movie.  "Spanking the Monkey" was not a fave of mine, although my boy Stefan "Stefdog" Prelog loved that movie about a guy that likes to...well, you know.  "Huckabees" reminded me of "Monkey" because both films are occasionally so weird that you don't know what to do, and I think that's not a good thing.  Given that, I think that "Huckabees" fits squarely in the middle for me; the offbeat comedy, kind of like the form of laughs from "Garden State", is great when it's on...but when it's not funny, "Huckabees" tries to shoot for a deeper form of meaning and understanding, and I was just tapping my foot waiting for something interesting to happen.  And, I don't remember not liking Jude Law in a movie before "Huckabees"; to make Jude Law uninteresting is a feat unto itself.

The hype machine on this film has been huge, but I was ultimately disappointed by "I Heart Huckabees" because it just didn't make any sense to me.  If I was a bit more of a genius, maybe I wouldn't have these problems!!

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09