Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Great Buck Howard DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: John Malkovich as Thinly-Veiled Kreskin Comes to DVD

Even though his name is The Great Buck Howard instead of The Amazing Kreskin, it’s pretty apparent who John Malkovich’s character is based on in this bittersweet, unlikely-buddy flick. For, like Kreskin, Buck is an over-the-hill mentalist with an usually-strong handshake and a stage finale in which he finds a wad of money hidden on a member of the audience.

The movie co-stars Colin Hanks as Troy Gabel, a 2nd year law student who dropped out of school without telling his father (Tom Hanks) to pursue his dream of becoming a writer. Soon forced to face the reality of having to earn a living, he takes a position as personal assistant to Buck Howard, an entertainment icon well past his prime.

Gone for Buck are the opportunities to appear on late night television and to play posh hotspots on the strip in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, that fact hasn’t humbled him one iota, which means Troy ends up on the road and staying in seedy motels with his pompous, egomaniacal boss 24/7.

Then, while rethinking the fateful decision to take this job, who should show up unannounced but his understandably irritated dad. But any chance Mr. Gabel has of talking his emotionally-estranged son off the road and into returning to L.A. ends once Buck hires another assistant in a cutie pie named Valerie (Emily Blunt).

The Great Buck Howard was written and directed by Sean McGinly whose unflattering portrait of his subject makes for a riveting cinematic experience. Its closing credits acknowledge a debt of gratitude owed Kreskin as a source of inspiration. But John Malkovich deserves the most credit for the film’s success, as he turns in a compelling performance as a pathetic has-been who has no idea he’s washed up.

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG for suggestive language and a drug reference.

Running time: 90 minutes

Studio: Magnolia Home Entertainment

DVD Extras: Commentary by director Sean McGinly and co-star Colin Hanks, deleted scenes, outtakes and “The Making of”’ featurette.

To purchase a copy of The Great Buck Howard, visit:

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