Review: The Great Buck Howard

The Great Buck Howard gives the loopy John Malkovich the showcase he deserves, and not just because he gets to fly as high, and flaky, as he likes. It's also because writer-director Sean McGinley has grounded Malkovich, allowing him to create a character with as much fascination as folly. His Buck Howard, a loving, fictionalized version of the Amazing Kreskin, is a former superstar of mentalism who is now a joke with a rubber handshake, a relic babbling on about his 61 appearances on The Tonight Show. He performs to half-full theaters in places like Bakersfield, Calif. (I love this town! he crows). Yet his act is still amazing. Buck reads people's minds, with a fusion of cheesiness and wonder. Or is it all a great big fraud? That's the tease at the heart of the movie, which traces his brief, shining moment of so-out-he's-in resurgence. A dryly winning Colin Hanks costars as the wide-eyed law-school dropout who becomes road manager to the doting, now apoplectic, maybe gay, lost-in-the-leisure-suit-era Buck. The Great Buck Howard is in love with kitsch, the backwaters of showbiz, and true magic. It's a wee charmer that left me enchanted. A-

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