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MOVIES 'Huckabees' DVD overwhelms

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Supplemental material gets classy treatment.
"I u Huckabees: Special Edition" (rated R; list price: $39.98)
Movies don't come much loopier than David O. Russell's "I u Huckabees." With a plot that involves existential detectives and Eastern philosophy, "Huckabees" whirls wildly in comedic circles that can either frustrate or fascinate, depending on your perspective.
More literal-minded viewers may find themselves in the former category and probably won't care to delve more deeply into this special edition DVD's wealth of bonus features. But fans of the unusual and clearly gifted Russell (he also directed "Three Kings" and "Flirting With Disaster") may get a charge out of the production diary and other extras, which -- despite Russell's reputation for being difficult to work with -- reveal a breezy, often wacky on-set relationship between the filmmaker and his stellar cast.
Gags and 'Charlie Rose'
This two-disc release of "Huckabees" includes enough supplemental material to fill a semester's worth of philosophy theses, certainly more than I can mention in this review. But the highlights include: 22 extended or deleted scenes; the aforementioned production diary; an outstanding episode of "The Charlie Rose Show," featuring Russell and stars Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman; a bizarre half-hour infomercial hosted by the movie's existential detective team of Jaffe and Jaffe (played by Tomlin and Hoffman); outtakes; a gag reel (billed as "Miscellaneous Things People Did"); and two commentary tracks, one by Russell solo and one featuring the director and cast members Jason Schwartzman, Mark Wahlberg and Naomi Watts. The standard release only includes the commentary tracks, by the way, so you have to get this version if you want to check out the bulk of extras.
A lot of this stuff is hit or miss. And if you try to watch it all in one sitting, the overwhelming number of features will seem like overkill. Still, I have to credit Fox for giving this outside-the-mainstream movie, which drew mixed reviews and screened in limited theaters, such classy DVD treatment. (I particularly like the colorful menu screens, which mirror the design of the movie's posters.) Clearly there's hope that a cult following may build now that "Huckabees" is available on DVD. As a fan, I'd be happy to see that happen. As for the DVD itself, I wouldn't go so far as to say I (heart) it. But I certainly think this DVD provides plenty that's worth watching and worth pondering long after you hit "stop."
J-Law the rapster
Most Unexpected Bonus: Some of the deleted scenes are dull but others serve up pleasant surprises, including cameo appearances by Mindy Cohn (Natalie of "Facts of Life" fame) and Charles Fleischer (the voice of Roger Rabbit and Carvelli from "Welcome Back, Kotter").
Bonus With Most Hollywood Credibility: The behind-the-scenes production diary features some bland moments, including Isabelle Huppert's incomprehensible attempt to explain the movie's meaning. But it's still worth checking out if only to hear director Spike Jonze, who films part of this doc, conducting interviews with the stars.
Most Skippable Bonus: The outtakes don't amount to much, unless you enjoy watching Wahlberg shove his fellow actors from a variety of angles.