Thursday, March 10, 2005

MOVIES: Hating Huckabee's

OK, here's an existential video review for you --

‘I (Heart) Huckabee’s’
Billed as an “existential comedy,” “I (Heart) Huckabee’s” has a lot on its mind. Unfortunately, it’s like listening to a drunken college freshman corner you at the bar to tell you all about his first philosophy course and how “wicked cool” it all is.
And it’s a shame, because director David O. Russell has a quirky and promising style, with the great Gulf War movie “Three Kings” and the Ben Stiller comedy “Flirting With Disaster” to his credit.
But he overdoes the quirk in this muddled, wanna-be philosophical mess, which features dialogue like, “Say this blanket represents all the matter and energy in the universe, OK? This is me, this is you, and over here, this is the Eiffel Tower, right, it’s Paris!”
Jason Schwartzman stars as Albert, a young environmentalist who seems to be losing control of his life and searching for meaning. He retains a bizarre firm of “existential detectives” (Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin) to investigate his life.
Toss in a money-hungry department store chain publicist (Jude Law), a confused firefighter (Mark Wahlberg), a supermodel who seeks enlightenment (Naomi Watts), and you’ve got a swirling, self-indulgent comedy about whatever the meaning of “is” is.
Its defenders might tell “Huckabee’s” haters that they “don’t get it.” But the truth is, there’s not much here to get. It’s like one of those Jack Handey “Deep Thoughts” skits on “Saturday Night Live” come to life.
Russell simply tosses everything he can think of in the pot. “Huckabee’s” wants to be a movie about ideas, which is laudable, but the ideas lack coherence and the story gets lost in the mix. It boasts the same striking visual sense and directing flair as “Three Kings,” but none of that film’s emotional impact.
Around the time two characters start having ridiculously silly sex in a mud puddle, I began reading a book and occasionally glancing up at the screen.
Intermittently, there’s amusing scenes, and the gem of the idea about a young man desperately searching for truth is solid.
There are a few bright spots among the strained performances, particularly Law as the shallow, cynical store publicist, and Wahlberg as a dazed firefighter who’s so committed to environmentalism he rides his bicycle to fires. But Schwartzman, as the lead, is just irritating and lacks presence.
I enjoy many of the quirky, intellectual movies “Huckabee’s” strives to emulate, such as “Being John Malkovich” and “The Royal Tenenbaums.” But those movies have a healthy sense of humor and absurdity tucked in with the moralizing, which “Huckabee’s” lacks.
For a movie so dependent on the brain, “Huckabee’s feels awfully empty-headed.
* out of four

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