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One Weird-Ass Peek At I HEART HUCKABEE

Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...

Over the weekend, I got sent the following link from several different sources, and I still don’t get it. It’s one of the strangest semi-teasers for a film this year, part of the rather annoying trend of movie trailers that look like commercials. Except... I don’t think this is really a trailer. I’m not sure what it is.


Personally, I’m dying to see this film. I like David O. Russell’s films so far, and this one’s got me intrigued just from the little bit I’ve heard so far. Still... this first reaction to it seems pretty harsh. Check it out...

After having seen what was apparently the first screening anywhere of the upcoming movie "I Love Huckabee's," I have two questions to ask director David O. Russell: Who are you, and what have you done with director David O. Russell?

It's astounding, really. The guy who directed "Three Kings" finally follows up that great film with an unbelievably awkward, incoherent, and just plain strange comedy about.... well, I'm not really sure. To start with, the title is apparently "I Heart Huckabee's," with an actual heart like a bumper sticker. It's a weird-ass title, but that's nothing compared to the movie itself.

Let me try to sort of give you an idea what this thing is about. Jason Schwartzman plays Albert, an environmentalist who has run into the same stranger three times in recent weeks. He is apparently so unsettled by this coincidence that he decides to hire a pair of "existential detectives," played by Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman, to figure out what it means. The detectives, however, are more interested in delving into his private and professional lives to find out why he is sad and miserable. He can't get rid of them. To make matters worse, his rival Brad (Jude Law) also signs up with the detectives out of curiosity, and though he soon tires of them, he can't get rid of them either. The "Huckabee's" of the title is a Wal-Mart-like mega-chain that Brad works for and that Albert is opposed to as per his job at an anti-suburban-sprawl non-profit organization.

This is the set-up, and it really doesn't get any more interesting or exciting from here. It tries very hard to be a comical romp but sabotages itself with it's impenetrable pop psychology. About fifty percent of the movie (and all of Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman's dialogue) is new age existential mumbo jumbo that doesn't really make any sense. At first, with Dustin Hoffman talking about how everything is connected and how you have to strip away all your layers until you reach a cosmic level, you get the feeling that the movie is going to be a Charlie Kaufman-esque head trip, which it clearly wants to be. But they give up on the weird, hallucinatory imagery and ideas about halfway through, so most of the movie is people yelling nonsensical psychobabble at each other. In fact, they seem to abandon the new age stuff altogether at the end and rely on regular psychology, which begs the question, what the hell was the point of all of this in the first place? Is Russell making fun of new age therapy? If he is, it's hard to tell, because he dwells on it for so much of the movie that he must think he's making some kind of sense.

Not to be entirely down on the movie, it is funny at times. Mark Wahlberg, as a belligerent fireman who whole-heartedly embraces existentialism, is pretty much a hoot through the whole thing. Naomi Watts, despite playing a major character, only shows up in the middle of the movie when her character needs to do something, and then kind of disappears again. But her part is very funny, as a ridiculously sexy spokesperson for Huckabee's who announces sale items while writhing around in skimpy outfits. Jude Law also has a lot of fun as the overly charming executive who starts to have a crisis of conscience, but most all the other actors are adrift in the script, either spouting or pretending to understand all the nonsensical dialogue. Now this is obviously a very early cut of the film, and it will no doubt be edited down quite a bit. But the whole movie centers around such impenetrable concepts that I don't think cutting it down will lead to it making any more sense.

If you use this, call me Ash Housewares.

No matter what, I’ll have to see it for myself. The guy’s just made too many good films in a row for me to write it off. I hope the period between now and release gives Russell a chance to clean it up and make it work really well. We’ll see...

"Moriarty" out.

Readers Talkback
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  • Feb. 16, 2004, 4:42 p.m. CST

    what does it say about me...

    by tommy5tone

    ...that i've never found naomi watts more ridiculously sexy than when she's playing a vacuous jingle bunny on some chain-store commercial? i got more of a rise out of her saying "knapsacks and pocket books" than when she was getting it on with laura elena harring or having those awesome nipples sucked by sean penn! man, that's fucked up.

  • Feb. 16, 2004, 8:37 p.m. CST

    I still say that, after XX/XY and Gigli, I Heart Huckabees is th

    by Hobbitastic

    But it's a David O. Russell movie with Naomi Watts and Jason Schwarzman... so I'll have to put my title prejudices aside.

  • Feb. 16, 2004, 8:37 p.m. CST

    I still say that, after XX/XY and Gigli, I Heart Huckabees is th

    by Hobbitastic

    But it's a David O. Russell movie with Naomi Watts and Jason Schwarzman... so I'll have to put my title prejudices aside.

  • Feb. 17, 2004, 4:51 a.m. CST

    This reminds me of the first AICN reviews of Adaptation...

    by deputydoofus

    ...which had no idea what Kaufman was thinking, that just fell apart at the end, that said he was obviously trying to top the weirdness of Being John Malkovich and failed...and then the movie came out and everyone loved it. Although, the premise reminds me of "Flirting With Disaster", but I don't understand yet what makes this so much more bizarre. Maybe it's like "Dr. T and the Women", which I loved actually more than "Adaptation". I'm betting this will be so weird most people won't s tand it...but I'm still looking forward to it. By the way, on In the Actor's Studio, Naomi Watts said the script for this was the most bizarre thing she's ever read. Why?

  • Feb. 17, 2004, 5:38 a.m. CST

    Why couldn't he just have made four kings?

    by Trinity's Gusset

    Damn i was annoyed reading this review. luckily mr.doofus expressed my problems with this review pretty well so i do not feel all alone. i get the feeling this reviewer liked 'three kings' coz it had, like, lots of guns in it.

  • Feb. 17, 2004, 1:18 p.m. CST

    Hard to top "Three Kings."

    by Christopher3

    Best recent war movie ever. I wonder if Watts is embarrassed by this?

  • Feb. 17, 2004, 1:33 p.m. CST

    "just fell apart at the end, that said he was obviously trying t

    by minderbinder

    Everyone loved it, my ass. I'm sure some people loved it, but many people who "loved" it probably were afraid that not liking it would make them uncool. Interesting setup, but it went nowhere. Compared to BJM, a huge disappointment and one of the more overrated movies of recent years.

  • Feb. 18, 2004, 4:12 a.m. CST

    "Everyone loved Adaptation": proof

    by deputydoofus - Adaptation was on the third most Top 10 lists of last year of any movies of last year. It made 153 top 10 lists out of 360 that had published lists. That's almost half. Maybe not everybody, but more critics loved it than any other movie than "Far From Heaven" and "Y Tu Mama Tambien".

  • Feb. 18, 2004, 10:24 a.m. CST

    "proof"? That's a good one.

    by minderbinder

    Critics love Kaufman, at this point they'll likely praise anything he does (until he has a major fuckup). And critics are suckers for any movie about making movies. Just because some critics liked it doesn't make it good, it's still monotonous and predictable. You're better off renting something like Barton Fink.

  • Feb. 18, 2004, 6:46 p.m. CST

    "Existential detectives"? "everything is connected"?

    by Billy Goat

    Sounds like somebody couldn't get permission to make a Dirk Gently movie.

  • Feb. 19, 2004, 3:19 a.m. CST

    Isabelle Huppert

    by Holly Golightly

    hmm, I heard Huppert's in this movie...I wonder if she added to the film in any way, or if she was just one of the "other actors" that added to the existential fodder...

  • Feb. 20, 2004, 11:15 a.m. CST

    Yeah, Barton Fink was a greater movie than Adaptation...

    by deputydoofus

    This we can agree on. Barton Fink is one of my top 5 movies of all time, and Adaptation is not. But, as far as Adaptation goes, if the critics loved it, and the Academy loved it, and if the film is on the imdb 250, and if the film was a big hit on videos, you have to admit that a lot of people liked Adaptation. It was a success, despite early AICN reviews saying it was a kind of disaster. I'm just saying that maybe this could be the same time

  • Feb. 20, 2004, 1:26 p.m. CST

    This will hopefully be as awesome as it should be.

    by PumpyMcAss

    Jude Law and Naomi Watts being in it alone is worth the admission price. And David O. Russell knows how to use the studio system to make some fucked up shit (though Three Kings' happy ending nearly ruins the experience for me). With this, Spotless Mind, Ladykillers and KB VII coming out in the next few months, we're starting off a pretty good film going year.

  • April 29, 2008, 12:57 a.m. CST


    by thebearovingian

    Hoo hoo hoo.