182: The Great Buck Howard

The Great Buck Howard (PG) - 2009 - Runtime: 90 minutes
Starring: John Malkovich, Colin Hanks, Emily Blunt
Director: Sean McGinly

John Malkovich certainly knows how to entertain. And lately he seems to be channeling his comedic talent with great success. He was perfectly cast as the narcissistic and hapless ex-CIA agent in Burn After Reading, who seemingly gets (metaphorically) kicked in the balls by life time after time. And now he's playing another ego-centric bonafide weirdo in The Great Buck Howard. Although the movie has a much more lighter and approachable tone than the Coen brothers' latest.

The movie is narrated by Troy (Colin Hanks), a law school dropout who's trying to figure out his life and some such nonsense. He somehow stumbles into the job of being road manager to a past his prime mentalist (not a magician, Buck gave that up at age five) who puts on shows to half packed theaters. Buck Howard is looking for a comeback and Troy is there to witness it all.

The movie's a fun ride and if you don't enjoy the zaniness of it all, then you have no soul. Buck Howard, in all his cheesiness and cornball glory, still has a bit of magic left in his performance. And the movie captures that perfectly. It's easy to get caught up in wondering, like Troy, whether this is an act or is it real. Nothing's ever revealed and there's an air of enchantment about the movie that makes you want to believe in Howard, much like his fans.

Malkovich plays the character perfectly. He has this goofish charm when he yells out "I love this TOWN!!!" to his hosts and shakes their hands so roughly they look like they went into a seizure. You also find yourself wondering how a mentalist who can track down his payment for the night (a part of his act - he has the audience hide the money and he finds it every single time) but he cannot possibly figure out which green room is his or where to go to get onstage. It's little details like this that I found myself smiling.

There's a great supporting cast involved, too, including a love interest for Troy, played by Emily Blunt. And Steve Zahn, one of Buck's hosts in Cincinnatti that never really seemed to grow up and grow out of his obsession with Buck. They all seem genuine, if not out of place from the real world. And that's alright, because you're along for the ride and it's all about Buck.

If you're looking for a light hearted comedy, look no further. I enjoyed this movie immensely, if you couldn't tell. It's out on DVD this week, so check it out!

Rating: Rent It!

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