Welcome to Adventures in Netflix! episode 13. Today I’ll be reviewing the 2008 indie movie The Great Buck Howard.
Literally the only two things I knew about this movie going in were (1) that Colin Hanks was in it and that (2) John Malkovich played titular Illusionist, Buck Howard. Furthermore, until about five minutes before hitting play I hadn’t know this movie even existed, making it perfect for this feature.
The Great Buck Howard is a somewhat charming little movie about Troy Gable (Colin Hanks), a young student who hates law school so much he quits to find his dream, much to the chagrin of his father (Tom Hanks). To pay the bills, and to put a little adventure is his life, Troy takes a job as road manager for Buck Howard, a has-been illusionist who now travels around the country, performing his act to half empty auditoriums. Eventually, Troy meets Valerie Brennan (Emily Blunt), Buck’s new press liaison and the two quickly become more than acquaintances.
If Buck Howard were some kind of food (I know, weird analogy to make about a movie, but I just ate dinner so…) it would probably be an appetizer, or perhaps some sort of side salad. Hmmm… not a great analogy. What I mean to say is that Buck Howard is a well made but largely unsubstantial movie. That summary I wrote in the last paragraph sounds unfinished, even to me, but it’s not; that’s really all there is to the movie. There’s no real conflict, only a mild sense of resolution, and a generally inconsequential plot. Believe it or not, I don’t mean any of those things negatively. I like it when movies depart from the tried and true (and sometimes boring) storytelling methods, and Buck Howard’s lack of conflict contributes to it being a relaxing and utterly stress free experience.
Another reason that Buck Howard works is the acting, which, as one might expect from such a talented cast, is excellent. John Malkovich is perfect as the eccentric, egotistical, somewhat OCD stage performer who thrives on the dregs of his once greater fame and his continued delusions of grandeur. Colin Hanks plays the young, creative dreamer type with a believable sincerity, and Tom Hanks is pitch perfect as a disapproving but loving father.
The Great Buck Howard might not be the most interesting or meaningful movie ever made, but it’s perfect if you just want to spend a quiet evening watching an enjoyable and worry free film.