The Great Buck Howard ***1/2

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John Malkovich has gone under appreciated for far too long.  He was snubbed by the academy for his great performances in movies like “Shadow Of The Vampire” and “Rounders”.  Heck he was even fascinating when he played himself in “Being John Malkovich”.  In “The Great Buck Howard” he gives one of his best performances as a magician who garnered much popularity from his many appearances on Johnny Carson.  In the twilight of his career, he finds himself playing to half filled venues in small towns. 

“I LOVE THIS TOWN” he announces to the crowd.  He goes out and performs the same routine he has for years.  He performs a few magic tricks, sings a couple of old songs, then finishes with his signature trick.  His cash fee is given to one member of the audience and he always guess’ who correctly as to who has it.  Colin Hanks plays Troy, his new road manager.  He grew up under a father who strongly implied that he become a lawyer, but in his second year he decided that he hated it, and decided to find something that would make him happy.  Maybe become a writer perhaps?  But first he lands the job with Buck.

Buck Howard is quite the piece of work.  He operates under the facade that he is a major celebrity.  He makes demands such has having spring water instead of distilled water.  “I AM NOT AN IRON” he screams.  But Troy is fascinated by Buck.  He senses that Buck really loves what he does, and truly loves the fans that come to his shows.  Honestly though, he never truly penetrates the real Buck Howard and neither do we.  But we never cease to be fascinated by him.

“The Great Buck Howard” was written and directed by Sean McGinly.  I am not familiar with any of his previous work, but judging by this movie, he seems to have a good eye for getting great performances out of his actors.  He also writes dialogue that compliments his actor’s abilities.  This is Colin Hanks best performance, and a big step in the right direction.  Malkovich is already well established, but McGinly supplies him with an endless amount of great dialogue for him to chew through.

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