This is another movie I’d barely heard of, but we took a chance on it. I enjoy a good show biz comedy now and then.
However, THE GREAT BUCK HOWARD isn’t really a comedy, although it’s fairly amusing in places. I guess it’s what they used to call a comedy-drama, before TV merged those words into the slightly less cumbersome but more irritating (at least to me) “dramedy”. It’s the story of a young man, played by Colin Hanks (Tom’s son), who quits law school because he hates it and winds up working as the road manager for a washed-up mentalist/magician named Buck Howard (John Malkovich). Buck, who is openly based on the Amazing Kreskin, as a note at the end of the movie reveals, is eccentric and hard to work for, to say the least. In that respect, this movie reminded me somewhat of a good one from the Eighties, MY FAVORITE YEAR. At one point in his career, Buck was a favorite guest on The Tonight Show (with Johnny Carson, as Buck always adds when he mentions it), but he’s fallen on hard times and been reduced to playing shows in small towns across America. His dream is to get back to The Tonight Show and also to perform in Las Vegas.
There are a lot of celebrity cameos in this one, from Jay Leno to Jack Carter and Bill Saluga (those of you who know who Bill Saluga is, raise your hand; I can still quote his most famous bit). Tom Hanks shows up playing, surprise, the kid’s dad. The script is good, the actors do a fine job, and while the movie definitely has a low-key feeling to it, I enjoyed it and found it well worth watching.