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Review: The Great Buck Howard

Forgoes ambiguities in favor of schmaltz
By PETER KEOUGH  |  March 18, 2009
2.0 2.0 Stars


VIDEO: The trailer for The Great Buck Howard

The Great Buck Howard (John Malkovich), a "mentalist" (based on "The Amazing Kreskin") whose "effects" include guessing numbers and putting people to sleep, played The Tonight Show (with Johnny Carson), but these days he's lucky if he gets a gig in Bakersfield. He's a dying breed, the Randy Robinson of illusionists.

Troy (Colin Hanks) also represents a dying breed, a law student who thinks he might be a writer (though you won't agree when you listen to his voiceover narration). He drops out to find himself and finds instead Buck, signing on as his manager. Which of the two is the bigger phony is just one of the ambiguities director Sean McGinly forgoes in lieu of laying on the schmaltz. Buck is a vain asshole who abuses Troy — but he's getting paid for doing what he loves, as he shows us in his greatest trick: finding his money after it's hidden in the theater.  

And if that fails, well, there's always putting folks to sleep. That's a trick this film has no problem with.

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