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I Heart Huckabees not for everyone

Observer Scene | Monday, November 1, 2004

A movie about existential detectives, however good it may be, does not tend to attract a wide audience.”I Heart Huckabees,” a comedy about the ups, downs, ins and outs of life and how it’s all connected, has a limited enough appeal that it hasn’t opened widely in theaters around the country. It was only engaged for a two-week showing at Showplace 16 in South Bend.The movie is not one for people who like run-of-the-mill chick flicks or action movies. The storyline is like nothing else in the video store and the script is equally bizarre.The film caters more to people who are fans of philoso-comic films like “The Big Lebowski” or “The Royal Tenenbaums” which are slightly out of sync with reality. If you are one of those people who is tired of going to the theater and seeing something where every plot development can be predicted an hour ahead of time, this is one of the few films in theaters that you might actually want to see. “I Heart Huckabees” is nothing if not unconventional.Like its offbeat compadres, “I Heart Huckabees” is a film composed more of striking moments than a coherent plot. It would be hard to describe in 20 or even 50 words what “The Big Lebowski” is about, but the style and the quotes are unmistakable. Explaining the plot of “I Heart Huckabees” is almost as difficult, but certain scenes in the movie click in a way that is unique but effective.Unfortunately, the best moments of “I Heart Huckabees” are not quite as good as those from “The Big Lebowski.” The film is more philosophical and more ethereal, and while it would be easier to define what the film is trying to say, it isn’t really quite as entertaining. You might laugh at the key moments, but you’re less likely to start quoting them to your friends.The film opens when Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman), a well-meaning but out-of-touch environmentalist, calls in existential detectives Bernard and Vivian Gaffe (Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin) to explain the meaning of a strange coincidence in his life. The Jaffes, who operate under a belief that everything in the universe is both connected and meaningful, set out to explain as many things about Markovski as they can.Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin play existential detectives satisfactorily, but are not especially distinctive. They do provide a cheerful contrast to Caterine Vauban (Isabelle Huppert), their dark counterpart.The best performances in the movie are given by Mark Wahlberg as firefighter Tommy Corn and Naomi Watts as Dawn Campbell, the face of the Huckabees corporations. Wahlberg has occasionally been too creepy for his own good, but in this role his angry streak turns out perfectly. Watts, the star of “Mulholland Drive,” plays as a glam-girl gone philosophical who yields some of the best scenes of the film.Jude Law also fits well into the role of seemingly soulless businessman Brad Stand.”I Heart Huckabees” is probably not a film everyone will enjoy, but if you want something that introduces some new thoughts without hitting you over the head, it may do the trick.