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The Great Buck Howard [Blu-ray]
The Great Buck Howard
Actors: John Malkovich, Colin Hanks, Emily Blunt, Tom Hanks, Steve Zahn
Director: Sean McGinly
Genres: Action & Adventure, Comedy, Drama
PG     2009     1hr 30min

Once upon a time, Buck Howard [John Malkovich] spent his days in the limelight as a mentalist extraordinaire! Nowadays, it s clear to everyone except Buck that his act has lost its luster. Convinced his comeback is imminen...  more »

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Movie Details

Actors: John Malkovich, Colin Hanks, Emily Blunt, Tom Hanks, Steve Zahn
Director: Sean McGinly
Genres: Action & Adventure, Comedy, Drama
Sub-Genres: Action & Adventure, Tom Hanks, Drama
Studio: Magnolia Home Entertainment
Format: Blu-ray - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 07/21/2009
Original Release Date: 01/01/2008
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2008
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 1hr 30min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 3
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English
Subtitles: Spanish
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Movie Reviews

Mark Turner | 07/22/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Among the many films that are released each year we are treated to some huge blockbusters. One this week out on DVD will no doubt be WATCHMEN. But while that movie may be the most sought after film, it will also leave many behind who won't get to the store in time for their copy. So instead, why not take a risk and watch something a bit more human, a bit more funny and a bit more sad. Why not watch THE GREAT BUCK HOWARD?

If you've never heard nor seen this film don't be surprised. As I said, blockbusters tend to take up space in the multiplexes around the country where an 18 screen complex offers only 4 films at a time. If you have HDNet, you may have caught it on the premier night it ran. If not, do so now.

Colin Hanks stars as Troy Gable, a young student in college studying to be a lawyer not because he loves it or sees himself having a future here but because his father has sent him here. Realizing he has no desire to live this life, he takes off and heads to LA and begins searching for a job. This results in his meeting the Great Buck Howard, now in search of a new road manager.

Buck Howard (John Malkovich) is a low level celebrity on the down side of life. At one time a notable performer who was featured on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson 61 times, he now finds himself playing regional theaters to half packed audiences. But at least these people are fans, those who recall his glory days and now have that moment to bask in the glow of this celebrity who has come to their lives.

Buck is a strange character. A mentalist with a touch now and then of magic, Buck is hard on his staff of one but loving of his crowd when on stage. Until a few take things into their own hand in one instance throwing off his game a bit. But Buck genuinely loves performing for these people and he does so stupendously, always ending with his signature trick where he has someone hide his fee for the night and then returns to the stage to locate it in the audience.

But even though he is the character centered in the title, the story is more about Troy than it is Buck. Troy is at that time in his life where he's trying to decide what he wants to do. He wants to be a writer but with little life experience, he finds himself gaining more and more as he travels with Buck from town to town. He sees Buck's ups and downs, his dealing with overindulgent fans, uninterested media types and many who have forgotten him.

Into Troy and Buck's life comes Valerie Brennan (Emily Blunt), a press agent sent out to handle Buck and a special event he has planned in an attempt to once again get into the spotlight. Valerie and Troy become romantically involved but catastrophe looms around the corner as Buck begins to place over 300 people into a trance at once. Unfortunately he's doing so in Cincinnati and at the same time Jerry Springer is involved in an accident. When the moment comes, no one is there to see it.

But word slowly gets out after Buck collapses and he suddenly becomes big once more. One recalls that Huey Lewis lyric "It's hip to be square". Buck suddenly finds himself on TV shows, being lured by Vegas and finally having the chance to go on The Tonight Show once again. But his rise leads to a decline as well and we are left to wonder what will happen to the Great Buck Howard? And what will become of Troy and Valerie as well?

Tons of celebrities make cameos in this coming of age tale including Regis and Kelly, Martha Stewart, Jon Stewart, Jay Leno, Tom Arnold, Conan O'Brien, George Takei and Tom Hanks (Colin's real life father) as Troy's father, the man who wants him in law school at any costs. And each scene with these celebs comes off as real and genuine, a testament to all actors involved, especially Malkovich.

This movie may not be the big blockbuster release of the week. But it is a film that will entertain and delight that those of us who recall the great days of Carson's Tonight Show will enjoy. Of note, the film (at least the stage work) is based on the Amazing Kreskin who director/writer Sean McGinley worked for as road manager. His love shines through in the character of Buck Howard. And I dare anyone to walk away from this film not feeling the same affection for a little known celebrity on the outs trying to work his way back in.
Ben T. | San Jose, CA | 05/02/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"If you ever had to wonder why you loved John Malkovitch, this is the reason why. This is the kind of movie you watch with your mouth open. The acting is strong. There's not a lot happening, this isn't a thriller, but even in the most ordinary scenes you can see that everyone believes in their characters. I thought I had this film figured out, but I was happily wrong. This story defies convention! John is simply fantastic in this role. Colin Hanks turns in a competent performance. He's a young actor so he still has to cut his teeth a little, but he did a fair enough job. His father even shows up for a scene and that's always nice.

But the real heart of the story I think is "do you still believe in magic?" not the real kind with witches and spells - but "magic" in a sense of wonder and amazement. I don't want to give anything away but in every scene when you think the story is about to fall apart, John Malkovitch pulls it off! He holds this film together with his bare hands. He's like a rock surrounded by superglue. He just makes this story happen. The way he talks about the human spirit -- without talking about it.
The only way I can give an analogy is...remember in "Braveheart" at the end when he dies for his people and screams "Freedom!" well, that scene only works if you completely believe in his character. If you believe that William Wallace really was THAT much of a believer. Mel Gibson took that character to the wall and you had to believe it.

THAT's what John does with Buck Howard. The character is so outrageous and over the top that at first you laugh at him. But then later on you come to realize that this man is a believer. This man is for real, this isn't an act. He's not acting. Buck Howard does believe in the magic of the human soul.

There is a scene at the end when Buck Howard looks at Colin Hanks. Looks at him and you will believe, too. When I left the theater I said to my friends "I have just seen the best movie of the year. And it's March.""
A genuinely fresh movie
D. J. Nardi | Washington, DC | 08/29/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I'm not a huge John John Malkovich fan, but this seems like one of those rare occasions when actor and role seem perfectly matched to produce an entertaining movie. Malkovich plays Buck Howard, a failing magician loosely based on the Amazing Kreskin. Malkovich's character is both corny and charming. He undergoes a transformation from being frustrated with his fate of performing for small-town America, to finding the his big break didn't necessarily bring him what he most needed. Meanwhile, Colin Hanks (Tom Hank's son) plays a young man searching for himself after dropping out of law school. Ultimately, this movie isn't a slapstick comedy and you probably won't find yourself laughing out loud. Nonetheless, it has some funny moments and is a breath of fresh air compared to the stale comedies Hollywood has been producing (with their utterly predictable plots).I found myself unable to predict where exactly the story was going or what would happen next to Buck Howard - and I loved that. Hopefully you will too."
The Lifetime of a Performance
Richard Hine | 08/26/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"It doesn't have the CGI razzle-dazzle of a summer blockbuster or even the pyrotechnics of a Criss Angel show, but THE GREAT BUCK HOWARD is a movie that will delight anyone who:

a) is a fan of the great John Malkovich;

b) has an enduring fondness for the showmanship of "mentalists" like The Amazing Kreskin (the real-life inspiration for the character of Buck Howard);

c) wants to believe in the possibility of magic and the importance of following your dreams.

Malkovich is the heart and soul of this movie and his portrayal of The Great Buck Howard whose enthusiasm ("I love this town!") for his performing life endures no matter how small the town he's in or the stage he's on. Colin Hanks can't match the great John for his on-screen charisma, but gives a likable enough performance as Troy, the kid who disappoints his dad (Tom Hanks) to become Buck's traveling sidekick. Emily Blunt, Steve Zahn, Griffin Dunne and Ricky Jay supply some additional star power and credibility to the funny, sad, and magical events that unfold.

Special features include Outtakes, a Behind-the-scenes featurette and an interview with the Amazing Kreskin himself."