The Great Buck Howard: Quite the act

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Malkovich shines in new release

By Matt Brunson

THE GREAT BUCK HOWARD

DIRECTED BY Sean McGinly

STARS John Malkovich, Colin Hanks

John Malkovich's greatest performance will probably always remain his turn as, well, John Malkovich in Spike Jonze's Being John Malkovich, but that's not to say this versatile actor isn't always adding memorable bits to an increasingly impressive portfolio. Thanks to writer-director Sean McGinly, Malkovich triumphs again, this time portraying the title role in The Great Buck Howard.

A slight yet satisfying show-biz tale that occasionally recalls such similar works as Broadway Danny Rose and My Favorite Year, this focuses on Troy (Colin Hanks), a young man who quits law school in order to find out what he really wants to do with his life. As he tries to figure it out, he takes a job as the road manager for Buck Howard, a temperamental mentalist who's convinced that his comeback rests just around the corner. As portrayed by Malkovich, Buck (loosely based on The Amazing Kreskin) is a man who's by turns sympathetic, cruel, charming and egotistical. It's a socko piece of acting, and while the likable Hanks is rarely more than adequate, Emily Blunt comes along (playing a no-nonsense publicist) and more than holds her own with a sly, charming performance.

From narcissistic entertainers to overzealous fans, The Great Buck Howard has something to say about almost everyone positioned up and down the chain of command. This expose is more congenial than acidic, but it's difficult not to like any movie in which a character states, "My college roommate was managing a multimillion dollar hedge fund, and here I was, helping Buck Howard with his benefit starring Gary Coleman and the guy from the Police Academy movies."


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