Reviewed by: Daniel Thompson
|Featuring:||Colin Hanks (son of Tom Hanks), Tom Hanks, John Malkovich, Emily Blunt, B.J. Hendricks, Tom Arnold, Jacquie Barnbrook, Ankur Bhatt, Osa Danam, Bubba Da Skitso, Griffin Dunne, Patrick Fischler, Matthew Gray Gubler, Nate Hartley, Matt Hoey, Dale Waddington Horowitz, Ricky Jay, Shane Johnson, Diana Kyle, Wallace Langham, Chene Lawson, David Mehl, P. David Miller, Don Most, Conan O'Brien, Norm O'Neill, Jill Ragan, Franklin Ruehl, Lawrence J. Russo, Terry Scannell, Adam Scott, Kimberly Scott, Lorna Scott, Danica Sheridan, John Stewart, Martha Stewart, Melissa Stone, George Takei, Amy Jo Traicoff, Stacey Travis, Katherine VanderLinden, Max Williams, Casey Rose Wilson, Nate Witty, Wendy Worthington, Steve Zahn|
|Producer:||Bristol Bay Productions, Playtone, Great Buck Productions, Marvin V. Acuna, Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks, Steve Shareshian, Ginger Sledge|
In the early 1970’s, The Amazing Kreskin burst on to TV screens all across North America. Kreskin, an eccentric entertainer was a self proclaimed “mentalist”, who would use illusions, tricks, and some hypnotism in his acts. Between his TV show and numerous appearances on late night talk shows, Kreskin became a household name. While no longer the star he once was, Kreskin still performs his act to this day in small clubs around the country. It’s on the life of The Amazing Kreskin that the film “The Great Buck Howard”, a consistently amusing film starring John Malkovich, is loosely based.
The story follows young Troy Gable (played with natural nuance by Colin Hanks), a law school dropout who has no inclination on what he wants to do with his life. Gable answers an ad in the classified paper to be a personal assistant to a celebrity. The “celebrity” is The Great Buck Howard, a mentalist who’s been in the business for over 30 years. Howard is long past his prime, but won’t let you forget his 60 plus appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, while simultaneously mentioning his disdain for Carson’s successor, Jay Leno (mostly due to the fact Leno has never had him on the show).
It’s this type of humor that permeates the film from start to finish, mainly in the character of Howard, who is equally talented, obsessive, and completely unaware of how he’s no longer famous at all. Gable travels from small town to small town with Howard as he does the same routine for half-filled auditoriums of people who remember Howard from his glory days. While his act is still impressive, Howard is tough to like, because his behaviors can swing from happy to livid, if just one little thing goes wrong. There are several moments when Howard realizes he’s no longer famous, but the moments pass quickly, almost as if Howard knows he must keep living in the bubble he’s created for himself just to survive.
As unbelievable events transpire, Howard finds himself with one more shot to get back on top. Gable, along for the ride, ends up falling in love with a young publicist, finding out a lot about himself and learning some important lessons about life and what’s really valuable.
While the film isn’t laugh out loud funny, it’s consistently humorous in a more subtle manner. This is mainly due to John Malkovich, who does such a wonderful job playing Buck Howard. Malkovich is a very talented actor, and as Buck Howard he goes full bore with the zaniness, and that suits him just fine.
“The Great Buck Howard” is rated PG, but it’s not a children’s movie. While there is no language to speak of, there is an implied sexual relationship between Gable and publicist Valerie (Emily Blunt), and also there is the constant question of Howard’s sexuality. While Howard never acknowledges it, several characters ponder whether or not he is homosexual. This talk is kept to a minimum and all within the realm of a PG rating.
By happenstance, a few weeks ago I caught The Amazing Kreskin on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. It’s eerie how similar Malkovich’s Howard is to the real life Kreskin. As the ultimate performer, Howard finally comes to the realization that he does what he does because he loves doing it. It’s a simple lesson, but one that many never learn. It’s the outstanding cast and writing in “The Great Buck Howard”, however, that make the lesson not only simple, but simply memorable.
Violence: None / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
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