I Heart Huckabees review by Cinema Guru Boy

Existential material is tough. Is it possible to make a movie about the meaning of life and not be pretentious? I guess Monty Python did so successfully. Is being too clever a curse by being banished into being too high-brow? David Russell's I Heart Huckabees has a lot of obsticals to overcome, and its mainstream appeal will be minimal, but public acceptance isn't the same as artistically successful. This movie had ambition, it explored questions and didn't cop out on the answers, it deserves a load of credit for that.

The movie is about a nuerotic twenty-something named Albert (Jason Schwartzman) who is haunted with his own depression. To make sense of it all, he goes to a pair of "existential detectives," played with brilliant chemistry by Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin, with some flimsy excuse about a coincidence of a series of appearences by a stranger in his life. As they constantly intrude upon his life, encouraging him to realize What It All Means himself, hilarity ensues. As the detectives follow Albert into his professional life, his rival, Brad (Jude Law), the ultimate one-upper, and his gorgeous model girlfriend Dawn (Naomi Watts) come into the picture, supplying hostility into What It All Means. Once the detectives introduce Albert to another client of theirs to implement the buddy system as something of a sponsorship, Albert and Tommy (Mark Wahlberg) begin to figure it out for themselves, providing for even more brilliant chemistry. Enter the detectives' professional rival, a former student named Caterine (Isabelle Huppert) and the cluster of story lines becomes more abstract, although makes more sense at the same time.

The film begins with an absolute bang, Schwartzman delivers a hilarious monologue to perfection, followed by a dreamy Jon Brion score. It all fits together so perfectly. The entire first act is amazing, as each character gets an outstanding introduction. The film then gets difficult to pin down. Why is any character pondering the existance of "why"? But that's excusable, because of the very content of the film. But once the entire ensamble cast is in place and interacts with each other, there's no stopping them. Wahlberg's commitment to the role is done so high-volume, anything less would be disapponting. There are some amazing scenes in which even guest stars light up the screen. Jean Smart plays the stranger's adopted mother, and the dinner scene with her family and Albert and Tommy is priceless. Existential theorist Caterine goes to Albert's parents' home and Talia Shire and Bob Gunton light it up. And then Albert and Brad have a "heart-to-heart" in an elevator, and this scene is pure genious.

The film was far from flawless. Was Huckabees trying to be Being John Malkovich? This film is almost certainly going to be compared to Charlie Kaufman's works, even though he deals more in meta-physicality than existentialism. For a lot of the film the plot ran in circles as the characters searched for What It All Means. That's almost excusable because this was a thematic film, rather than a plot film, which is a sure-fire way to avoid mainstream acceptance. But audiences are going to want their comedies to be funny. Being clever and adding a dark sense of humor isn't good enough. After all, David Russell is the man who gave us Spanking the Monkey. But it was intelligent and thought-provoking. Not to mention amazing performances all around.

This was well-written. It was well-directed. It tackled huge concepts and themes. It was downright ambitous. But it wasn't Vin Deisel making wise cracks or Julia Roberts being pretty. Huckabees is high-brow and will test the audience as to how much theory they're willing to take during their ride to escape reality. Highlights from begining to end.

7 out of 10 Jackasses
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