You know reality has taken a holiday when Mark Wahlberg delivers the outstanding performance in a film. Indeed he offers the only note of sincerity in David O Russell's glib existential comedy I Heart Huckabees, even outshining Dustin Hoffman as a babbling metaphysician and Jason Schwartzman who stars as an anguished environmentalist on a quest for ultimate truth. Although life's inherent absurdities throw up a few laughs, O Russell's efforts to prove the "interconnectedness" of everything never binds into a satisfying whole.
After a series of coincidences, angst-ridden Albert (Jason Schwartzman) hires "existential detectives" Bernard and Vivian (Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin) to unravel the meaning to his life. They sniff out a trail that leads to retail giant Huckabees and corporate go-getter Brad (Jude Law), who views Albert's campaign to preserve local marshland as a PR opportunity. However, Brad must confront his own issues when Bernard and Vivian brutally dissect his relationship with Huckabees spokesmodel Dawn (Naomi Watts).
"ZERO EMOTIONAL IMPACT"
Meanwhile, Albert continues on a downward spiral when he encounters Tommy (Mark Wahlberg), a fireman bewildered by the political climate post 9/11, and Caterine (Isabelle Huppert), a nihilistic femme fatale diametrically opposed to Bernard and Vivian's Zen philosophy.
Wahlberg's insistence on riding a bike to the scene of a fire (so he doesn't line the pockets of US oil barons) and a dinner scene where he infuriates his 'God-fearing' hosts are among a few genuinely funny and insightful moments. In contrast, most of the performances are too mannered, with Schwartzman being the worst offender while Hoffman and Tomlin perform a knockabout comedy act that only merits laughter of the canned variety. But the bigger problem lies in O Russell's philosophical (as opposed to psychological) approach to his characters which rips them apart with a psychotic detachment that culminates in zero emotional impact. Sadly, the only heart here is in the title.