A dozen years ago, Tom Hanks's production company, Playtone Records, released a film called That Thing You Do. It was quirky, witty, and a lot of fun—light, refreshing cinema with a good message about priorities and loyalty.

Even though That Thing You Do is about a fictional rock band, I couldn't stop thinking about it while I watched The Great Buck Howard—also a Playtone production. It has the same sprightly feel, the same good-natured attitude toward people's foibles, and a similarly moralist feel without any preachiness.

The Great Buck Howard stars John Malkovich as the eponymous fading has-been diva magician—excuse me, mentalist—who is touring the country performing in small-town theaters, and Colin Hanks as Troy, an aimless but nice enough law-school dropout who accidentally lands a job as his road assistant while trying to break into the entertainment industry.

Buck is capricious, but a born showman, and standing in the wings watching his show each night, Troy warms to the man. With his face-splitting grin, penchant for slightly mismatched suits, over-vigorous handshake, and signature exclamation—"I love this town!"—Buck can be a bit cheesy. He has a bad temper and a highly inflated view of his own importance—stemming from some formerly famous friends and a past as a celebrity—that is as maddening as it is sad. But he has one illusion that Troy can't figure out, and it works every time: he can locate a hidden bill—part of his appearance fee—that has been hidden by the audience in the auditorium.

Buck's career was once much hotter, with multiple appearances on Johnny Carson, and he's on a quest to restore his former glory by performing a daring feat: hypnotizing an entire ...

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The Great Buck Howard
Our Rating
2½ Stars - Fair
Average Rating
(1 user ratings)ADD YOURSHelp
Mpaa Rating
PG (for some language including suggestive remarks, and a drug reference)
Directed By
Sean McGinly
Run Time
1 hour 30 minutes
John Malkovich, Colin Hanks, Emily Blunt, Ricky Jay
Theatre Release
April 10, 2009 by Magnolia Pictures
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