I Heart Huckabee’s appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 and in a fullscreen version on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Nothing much interfered with the presentation, as it largely looked solid.
With only some minor exceptions, sharpness seemed excellent. A couple of shots demonstrated very minor softness, but those instances occurred infrequently and usually connected to some visual effects. The majority of the movie came across as distinctive and well defined. I noticed no problems with jagged edges or shimmering, but some light edge enhancement occurred during much of the flick. No print flaws crept into the flick, as the movie remained clean.
Colors looked strong. The movie’s natural palette produced generally warm, rich tones. The DVD replicated them with generally solid vivacity and definition. Black levels also came across as deep and firm, while low-light shots appeared clean and smooth. This was a good image that fell just sort of greatness.
Given its status as a quirky comedy, I didn’t expect much from the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of I Heart Huckabee’s. Indeed, the soundfield seemed pretty limited. The music showed decent stereo imaging, and most of the remaining audio tended toward general ambience. The mix always presented a nice sense of place, but that was about it. The surrounds echoed those elements and added a light feeling of dimensionality to the bits in Albert’s mind but never played a significant role.
Audio quality was positive. Speech seemed natural and crisp, with no issues connected to edginess or intelligibility. Music was fairly bright and dynamic, as both score and source tunes demonstrated solid reproduction and range. Effects also came across as clean and tight, with acceptable low-end. Nothing much happened to stand out, but the cumulative effect seemed fine.
As for extras, we get two separate audio commentaries. The first includes Russell with actors Jason Schwartzman, Mark Wahlberg and Naomi Watts. Don’t expect all four in the same room at the same time. Actually, Watts only pops up briefly via a phone call. Culled from different sessions, we get some material with all three men together, but we also find some bits with Russell and Schwartzman alone, and I think there are some from a Russell/Wahlberg recording as well. It’s all somewhat confusing, but it comes together neatly via editing.
This commentary starts strong but sputters a bit as it progresses. It covers topics like inspirations for parts of the film and various influences, the intentions of different elements, visual design, storytelling concerns, casting, the actors’ approaches to their characters, and various notes from the set. At the beginning, Russell seems active and involved, but he fades somewhat before too long. His initial details are quite informative, though, and the actors pick up some of the slack along the way. I especially like Schwartzman’s remarks about the tips he got from Dustin Hoffman.
Matters do decline as we get farther into the movie. During the piece’s second half, more gaps occur, and too much praise pops up; the track really loses a lot of energy. Overall, this commentary includes a reasonable amount of information, but it’s less consistent than I’d like.
The second commentary presents director David O. Russell on his own as he gives us a running, screen-specific chat. At its start, Russell explains that he taped this track second; he felt that the first one went off-task too much as he fooled around with the actors. Indeed, Russell’s solo commentary stays better focused, though it’s still not a great examination of the film.
Here the director mainly delves into the movie’s themes and influences. He talks about its socio-political issues and other interpretive matters. Russell also goes over more notes about working with the actors, though a lot of those fall into the “I love this scene” domain. As with the first commentary, this one suffers from too many banal plaudits, and some redundancy occurs in regard to the material Russell discusses. Nonetheless, he usually makes this a fairly meaty track that seems like the more informative of the pair.
I Heart Huckabee’s definitely won’t be for everyone. Its exploration of “existential detectives” puts it into an artsy category that makes it less than accessible at times. However, it compensates with a lot of mocking humor and unusual twists to become a lively and amusing piece. The DVD presents consistently good picture with low-key but acceptable audio. Not many extras appear here, though we do get a couple of fitfully informative commentaries. I definitely recommend Huckabee’s, at least as a rental. I think it’s too odd a movie for me to offer a firm endorsement for someone who hasn’t seen it to buy a copy, though I also feel it’ll probably warrant extra viewings to take in its nuances, so a purchase might not be a bad idea.
The question becomes which version to get. In addition to this release, a two-disc special edition will come out at the same time. Its first disc will be the same as this platter, but it’ll add a second DVD with additional features. Fox didn’t send me a copy of that for review; I’ve requested one but don’t know if I’ll get it. Nonetheless, I wanted to mention it so fans will know that a version with more extensive supplements is available for them. It retails for $39.98, so it’s significantly more expensive than the single-disc edition.