Monday, December 21, 2009

Day 283: The Great Buck Howard (2009) - Rank 4/5


This is possibly the best John Malkovich vehicle since "Being John Malkovich." Rather than playing himself, the eccentric actor is a hammy, washed-up mentalist who spends his days in the limelight of backwoods towns, performing for crowds of dozens. However, when he manages to hypnotize an entire lobby of people in the absnence of any cameras, the rumor mill exaggerates the act and soon he's back on top. Malkovich is endearingly quirky as Howard, greeting fans with aggressive handshakes and bombastically declaring "I love this town!" at every new venue.

The main crux of the story, though, is not that of Buck Howard but of Troy Gable (Colin Hanks). Gable drops out of law school to take on the demeaning job as Buck's attache, much to his father's disapproval (played by Big Daddy Hanks - I'm guessing Colin roped him in for the star power angle to help rope in curious viewers). Troy's story has been done before, so it doesn't leave as much of an impression as John Malkovich's performance. In fact, had Malkovich been absent from the film, the result would have been mediocre at best, though there is a fun supporting cast, featuring the likes of Ricky Jay and Steve Zahn. I recall that this broke Louisville at the Village Eight during its transition period and as a result, very few people saw it. Pity. I feel like had this film opened at Baxter, it would have generated decent enough word of mouth to keep it running for a while (a la "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" or "Little Miss Sunshine"). Instead, it shall undoubtedly find a modest following on DVD.

Watch the Trailer

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