Great Buck Howard

The Great Buck Howard

Director: Sean McGinly

Cast: John Malkovich, Colin Hanks, Emily Blunt


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A young man on his way up hitches his wagon to a middle-aged star on his way down in a comedy from writer and director Sean McGinly. Troy Gable (Colin Hanks) is a guy in his early twenties who has dropped out of law school and is pondering his next move. Troy has an interest in working in the entertainment


A young man on his way up hitches his wagon to a middle-aged star on his way down in a comedy from writer and director Sean McGinly. Troy Gable (Colin Hanks) is a guy in his early twenties who has dropped out of law school and is pondering his next move. Troy has an interest in working in the entertainment business, and when he learns that a "celebrity performer" is looking for a personal assistant, Troy thinks he's found the ideal entry-level position. Troy soon discovers he's landed a job as a glorified gofer for Buck Howard (John Malkovich), a once-famous mentalist who appeared on The Tonight Show 61 times during Johnny Carson's reign as host. However, Howard hasn't been doing much lately, and he's hired Troy and new publicist Valerie (Emily Blunt) as he grooms himself for a comeback. While Troy is fascinated with Howard's creaky but still effective act, his boss has enough personal quirks and absurd demands to give anyone second thoughts about working with him for long. One thing that keeps Troy on the road with Buck is Valerie, who wastes no time in showing her sexual interest in him; however, Valerie is also the only one who harbors no illusions about Howard's prospects for a return to fame, and she isn't afraid to tell him about it. The Great Buck Howard also features Tom Hanks as Troy's father; as it happens, he's also Colin Hanks' real life dad.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
The Great Buck Howard is a very agreeable "feel good" movie and, as such, should find favor with a great many of those who view it. The story, which is in the tradition of other "behind the scenes with a difficult talent" films as My Favorite Year, concerns an aging mentalist -- do not call him a magician, please -- named Buck Howard (John Malkovich), who was once at the top of the heap but is now reduced to playing to small, if appreciative, audiences far from the big time. His new road manager, Troy (Colin Hanks), has joined Buck because he is floating aimlessly after dropping out of law school and is trying to "find himself." Working with Buck is an education in itself, as he has taken self-delusion to an extreme, is entirely self-involved, and more than a bit temperamental. But there's something about Buck that draws Troy in and ultimately teaches him a lesson about being true to himself. Buck is a very audience-friendly film, provided that viewers are willing to let themselves be taken along for a fairly manipulative ride. Director-writer Sean McGinly has created a well-crafted screenplay that hits all the right buttons in terms of eliciting the desired response. Where he has fallen down a bit is in not adding real depth to the story or keeping it as tightly focused as it might have been. Troy's dilemma is a bit too superficial, as is the setup with his disapproving father (well-played by the actor's real-life papa, Tom Hanks). The part of the plot which deals with Troy's dalliance with a young P.R. agent feels incomplete, perhaps because Emily Blunt's dynamic, eye-catching performance makes the viewer want to learn more about her character and see more confrontations between the agent and Buck. However, neither of these flaws (nor McGinly's tendency to overwrite and overuse the narration) is fatal by any means and they're more than made up for by some wonderful comic moments and McGinly's trenchant yet amiable way of dissecting the whole concept of celebrity. Most importantly, Buck has Malkovich operating at the top of his not inconsiderable form. The actor clearly relishes this character, and it is a joy to watch him inhabit Buck's skin and bring him to beautiful life. Malkovich finds the humanity beneath the caricature without letting the caricature slip away; Buck's trademark "I love this town" is funny because it is simultaneously cheesy and heartfelt. As Troy, Hanks isn't able to hold his own against Malkovich -- or Blunt -- but he does the best he can as the "straight" man in the movie. The supporting cast, especially Steve Zahn's and Debra Monk's on-target "hayseeds," are aces. McGinly's direction is smooth, if a bit too concerned with getting its points across, and Tak Fujimoto's cinematography is both glossy and warm.

Product Details

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Original Release:
[Wide Screen]
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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
John Malkovich Buck Howard
Colin Hanks Troy Gable
Emily Blunt Valerie Brennan
Ricky Jay Actor
Debra Monk Actor
Griffin Dunne Actor
Adam Scott Actor
Patrick Fischler Actor
Wallace Langham Actor
Steve Zahn Actor
Tom Hanks Actor
Regis Philbin Actor
Kelly Ripa Actor
Jon Stewart Actor
Martha Stewart Actor
David Blaine Actor
Tom Arnold Actor
George Takei Actor
Matthew Gray Gubler Actor
Casey Wilson Actor

Technical Credits
Sean McGinly Director,Screenwriter
Marvin Acuna Executive Producer
Deva Anderson Musical Direction/Supervision
Johnetta Boone Costumes/Costume Designer
Tristan Paris Bourne Art Director
Gary Frutkoff Production Designer
Tak Fujimoto Cinematographer
Jose Antonio Garcia Sound/Sound Designer
Gary Goetzman Producer
Tom Hanks Producer
Myron Kerstein Editor
Lindsay Fellows Musical Direction/Supervision
Jeanne McCarthy Casting
Blake Neely Score Composer
Vince Palmo Asst. Director
Steven Shareshian Executive Producer
Ginger Sledge Co-producer

Scene Index

Commentary with Sean McGinly (writer/director) and Colin Hanks (actor); Deleted scenes; Extended scenes; Outtakes; Behind the scenes; HDNet: A Look at the Great Buck Howard; The Amazing Kreskin


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