Movie Mom

Movie Mom

The Great Buck Howard

posted by Nell Minow
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for some language including suggestive remarks, and a drug reference
Profanity:Some mild language
Nudity/Sex:Sexual references and non-explicity situation
Diversity Issues:None
Movie Release Date:March 20, 2009
DVD Release Date:July 21, 2009
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some language including suggestive remarks, and a drug reference
Profanity: Some mild language
Nudity/Sex: Sexual references and non-explicity situation
Alcohol/Drugs: Drinking
Violence/Scariness: None
Diversity Issues: None
Movie Release Date: March 20, 2009
DVD Release Date: July 21, 2009

This story about a retro performer itself has a very retro feeling, as though it is a recently rediscovered artifact. The likable Colin Hanks plays Troy Gabel, who drops out of law school with some vague thought that he would like to write. To support himself, he applies for a job as assistant to Buck Howard (John Malkovich), known professionally as The Great Buck Howard. He is also sometimes known as a magician, which he is not. He is a mentalist, someone who astounds the audience with feats of mind-reading and hypnotism. He was once popular and successful. He guested over 60 times on “The Tonight Show,” back when it was the real “Tonight Show,” the one with Johnny. But somehow, he lost his place on the A List and now performs in small, half-filled venues.


While he can be bitter about his lack of recognition and demanding of Troy, when he is on stage he seems perfectly happy and at home, always apparently genuine with his signature greeting, “I love this town!” And Troy, well aware of the cheesiness of an act that seems more suited to the days of Ed Sullivan than the era of YouTube, can’t help admiring Buck’s showmanship and resilience. A young pr executive (Emily Blunt) arrives in Cincinnati to coordinate the press for Buck’s dramatic new effect. And both Buck and Troy learn something about what really matters to them.


Hanks is a likeable onscreen presence with an easy affability, and he does as much as he can with a character that is written with only one dimension — if that. His best scenes are with his real-life father, Tom Hanks, playing his on-screen father, who disapproves of his decision to leave law school. Malkovich has a lot of fun with his role as Buck, enthusiastically pumping the hands of everyone he meets and showing the character’s mingled sense of entitlement and insecurity, acute awareness of how he comes across to an audience and lack of awareness of how he comes across one-to-one. Its old-fashioned structure and unpretentiousness give it some extra appeal. And even though it is all pretend, it is fun to see Buck’s act.

Previous Posts

A Look at Remakes (And Not All of Them Are Terrible)
The blogger behind Phyllis Loves Classic Movies held an invitational blogathon on a subject many people have strong feelings about: remakes. Phyllis herself took on one, or I should say, two of my favorites: "My Favorite Wife" with Irene Dunne ...

posted 2:19:00pm Oct. 12, 2015 | read full post »

Celebrate Columbus Day!
Christopher Columbus has not yet had the movie he deserves, but I prefer the Fredric March version to the later movies.  And I recommend a brilliant and completely engrossing biography from biographer Laurence Bergreen called Columbus: The Four ...

posted 8:00:30am Oct. 12, 2015 | read full post »

Interview: Writer-Director John Swetnam of the Dance film "Breaking Through"
John Swetnam is the director of "Breaking Through," the story of a young dancer who achieves viral fame and then sees it strain her relationships with her friends. I talked to him about the best way to film dancers "There was a Fred Astaire ...

posted 3:49:09pm Oct. 11, 2015 | read full post »

The Art of More -- Coming to Crackle November 19, 2015
[iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0"] An intense, one-hour drama set in the high-stakes world of New York auction houses, “The Art of More” ...

posted 8:00:00am Oct. 10, 2015 | read full post »

Interview: Jon Gries of "Endgame" (and "Get Shorty" and "Napoleon Dynamite")
I'm a big fan of actor Jon Gries, who always brings something very specific and interesting to his roles. In "Endgame," the story of a championship chess team from a school in a poor community from writer/director Carmen Marron, it would have ...

posted 3:27:36pm Oct. 09, 2015 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.