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I ♥ Huckabees (2004)

Reviewed on 2007 April 12

Actually, no, I don’t.

My husband got the DVD as a birthday present and since I’m a good sport, I just watched it with him and waited patiently for the thing to end. It had moments of brilliance but for the most part, it was like an annoying but clever guy talking to you at a party: you wanted to tune them out, but you didn’t want to miss it if they said something interesting.

Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman) is struggling to find his role in the environmental group Open Spaces — and in life — and has a hard time understanding where he is, in the literal and figurative sense. Plus, his role as Open Spaces mouthpiece has been usurped by Brad Stand (Jude Law) — the annoying, golden-haired boy — to be an eco-friendly representative for fictitious retail giant Huckabees. Huckabees looks and smells kind of like a Walmart and wants to nab a demographic that’s supposedly as concerned with global warming as they are in getting inexpensive toys and garden tools in one trip. Albert is shaken enough by this, and the role of a tall, handsome Sudanese man (Ger Duany) he keeps bumping into (and therefore thinks he’s some kind of talisman) to enlist some existential detectives.

He wanders into the firm of Jaffe & Jaffe, helmed by Bernard (Dustin Hoffman) and Vivian (Lily Tomlin). They assure Albert they can get to the bottom of this, if they can look at every aspect of his life. Everything is a clue to who we are, and we’re all connected, explains Bernard. The Jaffes are unorthodox but they are thorough: Brad also comes under their microscope, as does his girlfriend Dawn Campbell (Naomi Watts), the pretty face and voice of Huckabees. Tommy Corn (Mark Wahlberg) goes to see the Jaffes too: he’s a firefighter that can’t understand why the woman in his life doesn’t share his passion for saving the world. The Jaffes think they can help all these people, as long as they don’t fall under the spell of Caterine Vauban (Isabelle Huppert), a French nihilist who thinks life is as random and meaningless as the Jaffes think it’s all cosmic and groovy.

Surrealism usually isn’t my favorite thing, but when it’s done right I like it. I ♥ Huckabees really didn’t seem to go anywhere, which is understandable in a film tackling the meaning of existence; the difference is that Monty Python made the ride enjoyable. Except for Hoffman and Tomlin actually seeming like a cute married couple, this was like a car trip with some gorgeous scenery, but shared with annoying people, a full bladder and a crappy stereo. The characters are so solipsistic or preachy that they’re irritating.

The other problem with a movie like this — and it was very imaginative, I have to give it that — is that if you don’t just lap it up, someone is going to peer down their nose at you and sniff “well, you didn’t understaaaaaaaand it.” (If you’re cornered by someone like that at a party, you can have fun by suggesting Brad was an Id, Albert was an Ego, and Dawn a Superego, then running away while their brain implodes.) No, man, I got it; I just didn’t care. You could rent The Meaning of Life and get pretty much the same message, but with more laughs.

Two chocolate morsels. I wouldn’t watch it again but at least it was original. And for the record: depending on how much coffee I have, I kinda side with Vauban.


morsel morsel

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