Okay... It's an acquired taste. The Editor hates it and another staffer got 30 minutes in and found the existential angstifying a bit too bloody taxing for a Friday night. But if you click with it - - grief, it's genius. And the love it/loathe it factor has livened up our deadline no end (""It gets five stars over my cold, dead body!""). No one can accuse Three Kings writer/director David O Russell of not reaching. A star-packed ensemble laffer questioning the nature of existence? Beats the hell out of White Chicks. From Spanking The Monkey through Flirting With Disaster and, less obviously, Three Kings, Russell is fascinated by dysfunctional/ surrogate families and finding meaning and moral backbone.
Jason Schwartzman is the director's substitute here - - an environmental activist who hires Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin's existential 'tecs to investigate a coincidence and finds life (whatever that is) unravelling. Everyone is outstanding: from Naomi Watts's dim model-cum-"Amish bag lady" to Jude Law's smug suit fraying at the seams. Shot with muted beauty by Peter Deming, it brims with delirious invention, too - Schwartzman suckling at Jude Law's pendulous breasts; reality fracturing into floating cubes. But what gives Huckabees its `heart' is Mark Wahlberg's raw, hilarious and tender turn as Tommy the petroleum-obsessed firefighter. Fuelled by the filmmaker's passionate opinions on America's oil-driven warmongering and earthed by the star's working-class ethos, it's a performance to file alongside Brad Pitt's in Fight Club and Billy Bob Thornton's in The Man Who Wasn't There: too good for Oscar.