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The Great Buck Howard
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Great Buck Howard More at IMDbPro »

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41 out of 45 people found the following review useful:

Enjoyable story about "B" celebs

Author: stuprince from Tacoma, WA
8 March 2009

This could be the story about so many "B" level celebrities, and is based on the life story of the "Amazing Kresken," The Great Buck Howard tells us that once you enter the field of entertainment, you might do anything to stay on top.

Buck Howard (played wonderfully cheesy by John Malkovich) is a "mentalist" who was popular on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show," appearing 61 times. He is a classic 70s Vegas magician, doing fascinating tricks and metal feats of amazement. In all, he is a relic of decades past, entertainment without special effects and he still seems to think he is on top of the entertainment world.

Howard's career has has hit near the bottom, performing in such hotbeds as Bakersfield, CA and Akron, OH in front of partially filled small auditoriums. Still, he see's himself as a big time entertainer that is just not getting the break he needs to get back on top (much of which he blames on Jay Leno), in many ways he is a sad individual and does not get that the only people who enjoy him are almost as sad as him.

The story is told through the eyes of his traveling secretary, played by Colin Hanks, who is, himself, struggling with issues. He is battling his desires to become famous with his fathers (played by his real dad Tom Hanks)wish he become a lawyer. since he has no real talent (other than writing)he is breaking into entertainment the only way he sees possible.

This is a charming film, not something for those looking for action, a major love story (a minor one occurs between Colin and the beautiful Emily Blunt (best known as the 1st assistant in The Devil Wears Prada), or some major personal victory, although in the end, Howard does find what makes him happy.

This is a movie that likely describes the life of many "B" entertainers that are seeking to stay in a limelight that has moved away from them. it is simple and enjoyable.

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47 out of 58 people found the following review useful:

Enjoyable all-ages movie

Author: katherinestarwalters from United States
7 June 2008

I just saw this movie at SIFF. It was well-cast and entertaining. Colin Hanks, Adam Scott, and John Malkovich were especially enjoyable to watch. It is a comedy, but it was written and performed in such a way that I cared about the characters. It was funny and interesting so time flew because I was engaged in the plot. It is appropriate and appealing to a wide age range, and I would have felt comfortable going with my grandmother or my 12-year-old cousin. I especially recommend this movie to families or couples who are just getting to know each other because it will give you something to talk about afterward without ever making you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. It is not action packed but if you enjoyed "Lars and the Real Girl" or "Little Miss Sunshine," you will probably like "The Great Buck Howard."

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37 out of 46 people found the following review useful:

I Loved This Movie!!!!

Author: J_Trex from Philadelphia
26 March 2009

This was a very good comedy, well written and acted. The dialog was witty, the plot kept the pace going, and the character development was very good. Buck Howard (John Malkovich) is an "Amazing Kreskin" type magician who hires an assistant named Troy (Colin Hanks)to help him out while on the road, playing small venues in small towns. Troy is a law school dropout who decides to pursue a career in show business, against the wishes of his father (played by Tom Hanks in a brief role). Buck Howard had been a bigger star in the past, playing on Johnny Carson 61 times, but recently had been down on his luck.

Troy tells the story (Nick Carraway like) of Howard's life on the road, his unlikely comeback, and his fall back to earth. Along the way, we are introduced to Valerie, a publicity agent, excellently portrayed by Emily Blunt. Troy and Valerie become romantically involved, which makes Buck jealous, of whom specifically is unclear. Everyone in the movie seems curious as to Buck's sexual orientation: is he gay or not? Nobody knows for sure.

There were numerous cameo appearances by notable celebrities throughout the movie and Steve Zahn put in a hilarious performance as one of Buck's devoted fans.

This was a very funny movie, and I enjoyed it a lot. I'd recommend it to anyone who appreciates a good comedy.

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25 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

You think you've failed at life? Buck Howard will show your path

Author: la_fleur from Spain
30 May 2009

Houdini was once approached by a student who told him, "I know hundreds of card tricks, how many do you know?" Houdini replied, "Five, and I have dedicated my entire life to learning how to entertain an audience with them".

Buck Howard is a dried up celebrity struggling for his last gasp of fame. Almost forty years ago, Johnny Carson gave Buck Howard the title "The Great Buck Howard" and it stuck. Unfortunately, those years have left their mark and Buck is no longer 'Great'. Despite his tired jokes, sappy piano clap-along songs and magic acts he manages to attract small crowds at far-flung venues in the middle of America. The performances are always "One Night Only", as there would never be enough seat-fillers for a second. So what is exactly that keeps him going?

Colin Hanks plays Troy Gable, a law school dropout looking for a detour to finally get the answer to what he is meant to do in life. Will be able to counsel him a unbalanced magician -or mentalist-?

Nicely done, this film is funny and likable. A modern story about life dreams, the fierce entertainment industry, and the sadness that hides behind a bad temperamental person. Every well-known actor that appears in this film,even if they play short cameo roles, plays an important part.

It's quite a gentle, unusual comedy, so morals behind this movie are hard to get. However, this is a good film worth watching and definitely should be shown as an example of outstanding acting from Malkovich to Star Trek actor George Takei.

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28 out of 38 people found the following review useful:

Not Great . . .

Author: John DeSando ( from Columbus, Ohio
3 April 2009

The Great Buck Howard is not a great movie, but it is sometimes a sweet movie. Deliberately pushing the nostalgia button, the film bathes in the lost star power of a once famous "mentalist" Buck Howard (John Malkovich), who best represents the simple days of magicians like the Amazing Kreskin (the inspiration for Buck's character). As with Kreskin, Buck once delighted the late night shows, Vegas venues, and small towns such as Akron, Ohio.

Troy Gable (Colin Hanks) drops out of law school to become a writer (his uninspired voice over narration notwithstanding), but first he becomes Howard's assistant, much to the chagrin of his father (Tom Hanks—yes, that Hanks and that real-life father). Troy gets plenty of material from his boss, a dime-store vaudeville diva who yet displays a self confidence and pride to help the most cynical of us see the need to push on in the face of adversity, not the least of which is becoming passé.

Along the way we might learn a thing or two about professional integrity, true grit, and the possibility of love in all the odd places. Troy seems to learn those lessons although Hanks so underplays it's hard to tell. Director Sean McGinly apparently can't coax anything more than dimpled smiles from Hanks, whose similarity to his dad is both physical and temperamental. "Bland" is another word that comes to mind although I found the younger Hanks more animated on the London stage.

More passionate is publicist Valerie Brennan (Emily Blunt, reminding us of egos in Devil Wears Prada), with whom Troy must work and love. But, hey, even Malkovich underplays for this one, although his aging egotist is still impressive with the actor's patented impatience and theatrical outbursts. It's just that the underwhelming script doesn't allow the principals to rise above clichés, and the framing device of the relationship between narrator and mentalist goes nowhere (As it didn't for Gatsby's Nick either, I suppose).

It's a small world of small town vaudeville, fading but eloquent about talent and the need to be who you really are. Not easy, that.

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32 out of 49 people found the following review useful:

have to disagree with the boring comments

Author: pmcguireumc from United States
19 March 2009

I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I am not a huge Malcovich fan. Enjoyed him in "In the line of Fire", but not a whole lot else. He was excellent in this movie though. I would say in fact, that most all of the casting was excellent. Colin Hank was wonderful, very believable.

The film was very clean as well. Almost no foul language, no nudity, even for the obligatory love interest.

Two wonderful plot points (though not a spoiler) - Also, wonderful ongoing tension with George Takai that was neatly addressed in the end. This was nicely done and an interesting possible allusion to Wm Shatner's humorous attempts at singing. Opening credits are hilarious with the "you want to be a lawyer" vignette.

In many ways, one might say Buck Howard's character is a blend of Ed Wood and Wm Shatner. I will be interested to see what other people write in the coming months. Take the time to watch it though. I don't think you will be disappointed.

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20 out of 31 people found the following review useful:

Colin Hanks is flat and uninspired in this otherwise decent film.

Author: bruce-273 from United States
22 July 2009

I think the film would have been great if they cast someone besides Colin Hanks. He is undeniably mediocre in this role. He performance is flat and drab and when I see him perform I can not help but think how much better the scene would be if someone else starred. I don't have a problem with this kid trying to cut his teeth in acting but do we all have to watch him learn to act on film. Seriously does Colin's dad Tom Hanks have to manufacture films just so his kid can have and acting career. I know Hollywood is nothing more than nepotism as a business but when the actor really doesn't cut it it's all the more insulting to the public and shame on the director for not trying to get more out of him.

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10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Malkovich has rarely been better

Author: Roland E. Zwick ( from United States
10 October 2009

"The Great Buck Howard" is a near-perfect faux biopic that will have you grinning from ear to ear for ninety euphoric minutes. John Malkovich plays the title character, an ego-driven mentalist loosely based on the Amazing Kreskin. We're told that Buck had the moniker "Great" bestowed on him by none other than the late Johnny Carson himself after the magician appeared on the Tonight Show sixty-one times in the heyday of his career. The humorously named Troy Gable (Colin Hanks) is the law student (and narrator of the tale) who takes a pass on a promising career as an attorney to serve as Buck's road manager, a move that causes great consternation for the young man's father, nicely played in a cameo appearance by Colin's real-life dad, Tom Hanks.

Part inveterate con man, part grandiose showman and part purveyor of down home wisdom and folksiness, Buck Howard turns out to be the perfect instructor for a young man eager to become wise in the ways of human nature. Howard is what P.T. Barnum would have been had he been reduced to playing smaller venues, an entertainer par excellence who really knows how to work his audience for ego-gratification and profit - in short, a figure as uniquely American as the lone frontiersman or trailblazing entrepreneur. Howard probably believes only half of what he's selling, but it is that half that keeps him going in the face of declining popularity and ever-dwindling crowds. For Howard is just shy of turning into a has-been when, as if by magic, he finds himself unexpectedly mounting a full court media comeback.

A satirical and affectionate paean to the world of show biz and the bizarre creatures that inhabit it, "The Great Buck Howard" boasts a witty, flavorful script and stylish direction by the multi-talented Sean McGinly. The movie also features a lovely performance by Emily Blunt as a publicist and Troy's potential love interest, while a number of well known celebrities - John Stewart, Regis and Kathy Lee (or is it Kelly?), Conan O'Brien, George Takei and Tom Arnold among them - make brief appearances as themselves.

But it is Malkovich who grabs the material by the horns and runs with it. With his every gesture and facial expression, Malkovich turns the Great Buck Howard into a savvy combination of egotism, bravado, humility and pathos. One minute he's an impossible slave-driver, the next a paternalistic mentor - one minute a clear-eyed pragmatist, the next a dewy-eyed visionary and sentimentalist. It is Malkovich's ability to seamlessly meld all these contradictory traits into an instantly recognizable and utterly lovable character that ultimately makes "The Great Buck Howard" the richly entertaining experience it is.

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13 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

"I love this town!"

Author: moviemanMA from Massachusetts
23 May 2009

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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16 out of 26 people found the following review useful:


Author: Gordon-11 from Earth
13 June 2009

This film is about a young man who quits law school to become the assistant to a waning mentalist performer.

"The Great Buck Howard" has a unconventional beginning, with coloured subtitles helping to get points across. It is a fun way to start a film, yet the rest of the film has a vastly different tone.The title character Buck Howard is an unpleasant and mean guy, and yet somehow he strikes a chord with the viewers. He makes me sympathise with his misfortunes, and feel sad that his amazing acts get overlooked by the public and the press. I wanted Buck Howard to succeed in his tricks, even though he is unpleasant to work with.

I enjoyed watching "The Great Buck Howard".

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