Sunday, March 8, 2009

Review - The Great Buck Howard

A unsatisfied young man Troy, quits law school and answers an advertisement for a personal assistant. He takes the job as a road manager for a has-been mentalist known as The Great Buck Howard. Troy quickly becomes apart of the aged illusionist's scheme to stage a huge comeback and get himself back on the Tonight Show.

"The Great Buck Howard" was a film that I had high expectations for going in that unfortunately didn't measure up. John Malkovich carried the film hands down and without his presence, I am not sure the film would be very tolerable. It is not to say that "The Great Buck Howard" is a bad film, but more so, that it goes nowhere and outside of Malkovich's performance there is not much to enjoy.

Colin Hanks as Troy is very capable in his role and his narration is well suited to the film. The film follows Troy's perspective of Buck Howard, however writer/director Sean McGinly's character development of Troy leaves him unappealing and mainly stagnant throughout. Hanks does the best he can with the stale role he is given. Some of Colin Hanks best moments come from scenes shared with his real life father Tom Hanks, who wants desperately for his son to finish law school.

The roles Emily Blunt, Ricky Jay and Steve Zahn play hammer home the idea that "The Great Buck Howard" does not live up to it's potential. Ricky Jay, who is generally a riot on screen is given virtually nothing to do, quickly becoming apparent that he is only on the movie poster for a marketing viewpoint. Steve Zahn who is also hilarious on screen, is given plenty of screen time, but all of his scenes fall flat on their face. Emily Blunt, much like Colin Hanks is given a very dry character that is hard to become interested in. Each of the supporting cast outside of John Malkovich unfortunately feel under-utilized in the roles.

John Malkovich was hilarious from start to finish as Buck Howard. His performance is the film and ultimately keeps the viewer from losing further interest. All of Malkovich's mannerisms, behavoir and catch phrases as Buck Howard are perfect. Every time Buck Howard says, "Isn't it wild?" or "I love this town" is smile enducing and furthermore leaves the viewer invested in his character.

Unfortunately, "The Great Buck Howard" feels like it finishes where it started. We see young Troy make a progression, but the viewer instead finds Buck Howard in the same place, leaving them to face the reality of his flash-in-the-pan career. The reality is merely glanced over does not leave any kind of dramatic impact that the film deserved. Outside of Malkovich's veteran performance, "The Great Buck Howard" felt like a disappointment. The film had a capable cast and a solid story, but never found the means to tell it in a impactful way.