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Raymond De Felitta
When a law school dropout answers an advertisement to be a personal assistant he unknowingly signs on to work for a belligerent has-been magician struggling to resurrect his career. This leads to a journey across the country staging the comeback of a lifetime. Written by
What happens to famous people when their popularity dies out? If this intrigues you I would recommend you go sit down and watch The Great Buck Howard. It stars Colin Hanks, John Malkovich, Emily Blunt, and features Tom Hanks in a comedy about just that question.
The beginning of the film almost started off exactly like Orange County, another film starring Colin Hanks. Here he plays Troy, law student who has decided that becoming a lawyer just isn't what he was cut out to do. So he does what every young man decides at some point in his life to do: write. That's about the extent of the comparison to Orange County. The rest of the film is nothing like it (and that's a good thing).
Since writing doesn't quite pay the bills, he finds a job working on the road for the Great Buck Howard, played marvelously by Malkovich. Buck is not a magician but a mentalist. He appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson 61 times, but since then hasn't done much. He now plays small town theaters across the country.
Hanks doesn't know anything about show business but soon learns that life with Buck can be both rewarding and degrading. After tearing through town after town, Hanks falls into a grove until his father, played by his real father Tom Hanks, catches wind that he left school to work for Buck. He is disappointed to say the least and nearly gets Colin to quit, but Howard manages to keep him on for his secret trick (or as Howard refers to them as "effects") to take place in Cincinnati, Ohio.
It is there we meet Hanks' love interest in PR girl Valerie (Emily Blunt). Buck is paraded around town by a pair of simple folk (Debra Monk and Steve Zahn) who try to make him feel as welcome possible. In doing so they nearly ruin the entire event. The rest of the film follows Buck and Troy as they try to resurrect Buck's career and bring him back to the Tonight Show and eventually Vegas.
This is a cute little film that has a lot of heart. Malkovich puts on a great performance as the aging mentalist, giving the character a much developed personality and history. We can see that years on the road have turned this man into somewhat of a nut job, but he can still put on a great show.
The script doesn't waver. Writer/director Sean McGinly does a fine job for his first big production. There is nothing flashy going on here. Just a basic film with an above average story. That's all I expected from this film. I knew Tom Hanks wouldn't put his name on just anything (he produces the film).
I don't see this film making too much of a splash. There's nothing really here that makes me say "wow!" Malkovich is probably the best part of the film, as well as the story. I wouldn't go out of my way to see it, but I'm glad I got to. I also look forward for more of McGinly's work. It looks like he has a knack for storytelling.
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