Unable to face life as a lawyer, having been pushed into law school by his father (Tom Hanks), Troy Gable (Colin Hanks, looking uncannily like his father) aspires to become a writer. In order to put food on the table, he becomes the road manager for Buck Howard (John Malkovich), a former big-name mentalist who now works half-empty theatres in towns Troy didn’t even know existed. By turns charming and tyrannical, Buck keeps hoping for the big comeback and return to his Tonight Show glory days, and drags Troy along for a bumpy ride down the back roads of show business.
This is a likable, charming film. It may be a bit slight – there really aren’t too many surprises in the script, and the few that are, are at the service of a certain cozy familiarity of sentiment. Still, it’s impossible not to warm up to Troy, Buck, and the other characters, some quirkier than others. Hanks Sr. and Jr. share a couple of scenes together, which work, though it’s hard not to engage in some extra-diegetic between-the-lines readings of those scenes. It’s too early to tell whether Colin is going to develop into a talent like his father, but he certainly carries off the role here quite nimbly. And Malkovich, of course, is a hoot.
The colours, contrasts, blacks and flesh tones are all very strong, giving the film an attractive, forceful look that nonetheless avoids being stylized. In other words, naturalistic but still pretty. Grain and edge aren’t problems, and the aspect ratio is the original 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. A transfer that is very easy on the eyes.
Very nice audio indeed. The dialogue is crisp and distortion-free, the music has a nice mix, and care has been paid to creating a nice sense of environment. The sound effects are well placed, whether we are dealing with planes flying overhead or (more commonly) audience reactions to Buck’s performances.
Commentary Track: Writer/director Sean McGinly, who based Troy’s experiences on his own, and Colin Hanks get together for this track, which is a pretty straightforward “how we did each bit of the film and what role it had in the story” deal.
Deleted Scenes: (3:03) None hurt the film by being removed.
Extended Scenes: (9:44) These are the full versions of the scenes that make up the talk show montage.
Behind the Scenes: (9:45) The usual promotional fare.
HDNet: A Look at The Great Buck Howard: (4:27) Essentially a truncated version of the previous feature, with nothing significant added.
The Amazing Kreskin: (5:47) The inspiration for Buck Howard weighs in on the feats performed in the film and some of the incidents that mirrored his own experiences. He is extremely jovial, a very good sport.
Nothing earth-shaking, but a pleasant 90 minutes at the movies. Nothing wrong with that.