Plot: What’s it about?
Buck Howard (John Malkovich) was once a famous magician, with television appearances and sold out audiences that ate up his performances. But these days, Buck is unable to fill even medium sized venues, but he is certain he can return to his once lofty level of fame. At the same time, Troy Gable (Colin Hanks) decides to drop out of law school and while he ponders his future, take a job as Buck’s personal assistant. While Buck’s drawing power has faded, he acts as if he is still an in demand talent and after his latest trick, he is sure everyone will agree. But will his new trick be enough to put him back on top and for Troy, will his experiences with Buck help him find direction in his life?
In an unusual approach, The Great Buck Howard was shown on television before it even hit the theaters, let alone home video. I saw the commercials and took a chance, interested to see a film with such an odd release pattern. As based on the writer/director’s own personal experiences, this film offers a look inside the world of lost fame. The film is driven by John Malkovich and Colin Hanks, with the latter being our vessel into Buck’s world. But while Malkovich is excellent and relishes his role, Hanks is dull, drab, and never earns his keep. You could blame the role, which isn’t a dynamic one, but Hanks is also to blame. He has never struck me as talented and here, that lack of talent is evident. But Malkovich is so strong, he makes it better than it should be and for his performance alone, The Great Buck Howard is recommended.
Video: How does it look?
The Great Buck Howard is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The visuals look good, even above average, but don’t provide a dynamic experience. The print has a lot of visible grain, like above and beyond normal inherent levels, which can be quite a distraction. This also softens the visuals somewhat, as detail is rock solid, but rarely pokes into the remarkable department. No issues arise with colors however, while contrast is consistent and accurate. Not a showcase presentation by any means, but this look good and fans should be mostly pleased.
Audio: How does it sound?
A competent DTS HD 5.1 option is present, but it isn’t at all memorable. The filmis fueled by dialogue more than anything, so there isn’t a lot of power to speak of. But vocals come across well, with good clarity and few volume concerns. I do think the music is a touch too loud at times, but it isn’t that much of a bother. The surrounds light up here and there, but there isn’t much to report, this is a pretty basic soundtrack. This disc also includes subtitles in English and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
I’ve heard some dull audio commentaries and so when I say this one is dull, you can rest assured it is. Colin Hanks and writer/director Sean McGinly talk about the behind the scenes of the shoot, but little actual depth is present. You get some mild anecdotes, but neither is keen on going beyond the basics. A number of featurettes can be browsed, but all are promotional in nature and offer minimal insight at best. This disc also includes an interview with The Amazing Kreskin, some outtakes, and a collection of extended Buck Howard interviews.