The Michigan Daily discovered in April 2005 that several articles written by arts editor Marshall W. Lee did not meet the newspaper’s standard of ethical journalism. Parts of these stories had been taken from an earlier review. The article below appears to contain plagiarism, and the Daily no longer stands by its content.
That “I Heart Huckabees” was an utter failure at the box office — it earned a mere pittance of 12.2 million, watching from the periphery as “The Grudge” and “Shark Tale” ran away with mounds of cash — seems just another indication of the growing distance between interesting, competent films and the inclinations of middle-America’s filmgoing masses. Case in point: The recent Academy Awards were perhaps most remarkable for the miniscule earnings of the five Best Picture contenders. In a poignant, if rather rattling, Oscar sketch, host Chris Rock interviewed a group of black moviegoers, all of whom gushingly adored the lame-duck Wayans brothers comedy “White Chicks,” and none of whom had taken any interest in such Hollywood darlings and Best Picture contenders as “Sideways” and “Finding Neverland.” In fact, all five of this year’s Best Picture nominees combined have earned just under 13 million less than last year’s winner, “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.” It appears that the failure of “I Heart Huckabees” is yet another example of Friday-night filmgoers’ aversion to anything left or right of center.
Those lucky few who ventured out into the late-fall chill to see writer-director David O. Russell’s (“Three Kings”) quirky comic gem already know what they’re in for: A free-wheeling and subversive satire that is at once an intellectual slapstick comedy and a verbose metaphysical mind-trip. The ensemble storyline of “I Heart Huckabees” whirlpools around the interconnected lives of four individuals — an angst-ridden environmental activist, Albert (Jason Schwartzman, “Rushmore”); a live-wire fireman, Tommy (Mark Wahlberg); a knockout commercial spokesmodel, Dawn (Naomi Watts); and a smarmy corporate hot-shot, Brad (the ubiquitous Jude Law in a pitch-perfect role). As their respective lives, jobs and relationships begin to dissolve before their eyes, all four off-kilter leads experiment with new age philosophy in a convoluted attempt to find meaning in the mixed-up world.
This is the type of movie that really blossoms on DVD: Each subsequent viewing of the film holds new and wonderful rewards, both in the context of the film’s humor and in the subtle, sly production. The heap of special features on the three-disc special edition run the full gamut of home-video extras, including multiple audio commentaries, alternate and deleted scenes, additional production footage and a couple making-of featurettes. The cream of this crop is Russell’s unaccompanied commentary where the surprisingly soft-spoken genius expounds upon his wide-ranging influences (everything from J.D. Salinger’s “Franny and Zooey” to Mike Meyers in “The Cat in the Hat”) and his intensely personal relationship with the film’s philosophical content.
When first seen in theaters, “Huckabees” could be regarded with a weary, sidelong adoration. However, watching it for the fourth time, it becomes prized with the unembarrassed passion that held for timeless DVD treasures such as “Jaws” and “Rushmore,” and now there’s no denying it: This is a truly great film.
Movie: 4 stars out of 5
Sound and Picture: 5 stars out of 5
Special Features: 5 stars out of 5