Maddeningly uneven but mildly amusing, David O. Russell’s I Heart Huckabees – a philosophical examination of the meaning of life disguised as a droll screwball comedy – had me simultaneously laughing at its good-natured wackiness and revolting against its faux-weighty intellectualism. Earnest environmentalist Albert (Jason Schwartzman) is fighting urban sprawl by working to protect marshland from the development plans of insidious clothing chain Huckabees. When he’s fired from the project for clashing with Huckabees’ smarmy corporate egomaniac Brad (Jude Law), Albert finds himself spiritually and emotionally adrift, and through a series of coincidences (or are they?), winds up hiring existential detectives Bernard and Vivian (Lilly Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman) to help him solve his personal crisis. What follows is two hours of watered-down Sartre punctuated by flashes of off-the-wall lunacy. Albert’s quest for understanding brings him into contact with Mark Wahlberg’s Tommy, a firefighter fixated on educating people about America’s detrimental dependence on foreign oil (or “the petroleum situation,” as he regularly calls it); Dawn (Naomi Watts), Huckabees’ cheery spokesmodel (and Brad’s girlfriend) who feels increasingly disenchanted with her role as objectified corporate logo; and French author Caterine (Isabelle Huppert), whose gloomy pessimism appeals to both Albert and Tommy. Albert’s central dilemma – “What the hell is life supposed to be about?” – is presented as a choice between Bernard and Vivian’s cheery theory of connectivity (i.e. everything is intertwined, and thus we’re not alone) and Caterine’s competing nihilism (i.e. life is cruel and random, and thus we’re all alone), though – in keeping with the film’s smart-alecky attitude – a middle ground is eventually discovered. There’s some pleasure to be had at Huppert’s embodiment of (stereotypical) French cynicism, and Russell’s direction has buoyancy during zanier moments, such as Tommy slamming his face with a red ball to achieve a state of non-thinking bliss and Dawn’s decision to film Huckabees commercials not in scantily-clad sex-kitten garb but, rather, in an Amish milkmaid bonnet. In the end, however, the hilarity isn’t nearly as enervating as the philosophizing is aggravating, and I Heart Huckabees’ portrait of Americans’ unresolved post-9/11 confusion and despair winds up being less profound than pretentious.