Movie review: The Great Buck Howard

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

In the magical world of the entertainment industry, there's nothing that can't be fixed by some celebrity cameos and a thick, sticky film of nostalgia. It's a belief that writer-director Sean McGinly clings to in The Great Buck Howard, an all-too-familiar story of a young man coming into his own under the thumb of a high-maintenance elder.

Unhappy at law school and unsure what to do next, Troy Gable (Colin Hanks) leaves for a job as the personal assistant to Buck Howard (John Malkovich), a magician and mentalist with a bruising handshake whose Tonight Show glory days are long past.

Buck now plays community theaters in Bakersfield and Cincinnati, but he's still as demanding as any A-lister, to the dismay of Troy and the publicist (Emily Blunt) sent to handle Buck's attempt at a comeback.

The outcome of this effort and appearances by Jon Stewart, Conan O'Brien, running joke George Takei and Hanks' father Tom are the only surprises McGinly has in store. Otherwise, he has a stale narrative, a bland leading man in a cipher of a central character and, with Buck, a foil who's too annoying to earn the warm fuzzies the movie has for him.

Fortunately, he's also got Malkovich, who's always reliable. You might not like his character, but it can be fun to watch him play it.

"The Great Buck Howard"

Opens Friday at the Drexel

Grade: C