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flick pick | I Heart Huckabees 2004
Directed by: David O. Russell
Written by: David O. Russell, Jeff Baena
Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Mark Wahlberg, Lily Tomlin, Dustin Hoffman, Jude Law, Isabelle Huppert, Naomi Watts
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: comedy, drama
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something: darkly comic, whimsical, witty
The critic says: ½/ 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: ½/5 

Plot synopsis Lately, environmentalist Albert Markovski's been plagued with the nagging feeling that something's not quite right in his life. For one thing, he's gotten his save-the-wetlands nonprofit group involved with the Huckabees Corporation in an effort to save an important marshland, but now his Huckabees contact, the way too slick Brad Stand, seems to be taking over the project and working to serve the evil corporation's own needs. For another thing, Albert keeps running into a mysterious tall, skinny young African man in the unlikeliest of places, and it's driving him nuts wondering whether there's some greater cosmic reason for these meetings beyond pure coincidence. It's this latter problem that sends him to the office of Vivian and Bernard Jaffe, existential detectives. Vivian and her husband Bernard aren't the sort of detectives who solve crimes or find lost loved ones. No, the sort of detective work they do involves helping their clients get answers to the existential questions that plague them: What am I? Why am I here? What does it all mean? Adhering to the school of thought that says everything in the universe is connected, Vivian and Bernard infiltrate the lives of their clients, trailing them at home and at work, delving into their history and their psyches. As part of his work with the Jaffes, Albert gets assigned an existential crisis buddy to help him through the process. Unfortunately for the Jaffes, Albert's buddy is Tommy Corn, a post 9/11 firefighter who's become obsessed with the idea that all the world's problems stem from petroleum. Tommy's started to question whether all the money he's been paying the Jaffes has done any good. He's been reading the work of a woman named Caterine Vauban, who claims that the world is a crazy mess of unconnectedness, that there is no meaning behind anything that happens, that nothing we do really matters and that the sooner we accept all this, the better. And frankly, given what Tommy's seen, Vauban's worldview makes a lot of sense. Albert and Tommy soon find themselves trailed by Caterine Vauban herself, as well as the Jaffes. Meanwhile, Huckabees golden boy Brad Stand finds himself turning to the Jaffes for reasons of his own.

Review Imagine the cinematic lovechild of Wes Anderson and Charlie Kaufman, and you might get something that looks a bit like David O. Russell's super-stylized, deeply wacky existential comedy, I Heart Huckabees. Exploring corporate greed, environmentalism, the superficiality of advertising, the self-help craze and more, Huckabees is a movie that's clearly concerned about ideas. But it presents its braininess in such an amusing, madcap manner that you'd be nuts to call it pretentious. The characters might wax philosophical, but the movie clearly enjoys poking fun at their extremism. We aren't meant to agree with the jargon-filled spouting of either the Jaffes or Caterine, and the overall message of the movie, if there is one, seems to be that thinking about the big questions is good, yes, but being able to laugh about the absurdities of life and the universe is just as important. This isn't the sort of movie likely to appeal to literalists; the characters are completely over-the-top, the situations they find themselves are absolutely absurd, the dialogue totally artificial and overly intellectualized. Real people don't talk or act like Albert or Tommy or Brad or the Jaffes. Still, feeling plagued by those pesky, age-old questions regarding the meaning of life and the universe? That's something real, even if most of us don't run around hiring existential detectives to figure things out for us. I Heart Huckabees isn't perfect -- the zaniness sometimes degenerates into pure nonsense -- but with a stellar cast, sparkling dialogue and plenty of laughs, it offers food for thought as well as fun.  —reviewed by Yee-Fan Sun

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