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Arts and Entertainment

Review: The Great Buck Howard

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How GOOD is Steve Zahn?! LET'S TALK ABOUT IT. Photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures.

Showmanship in the long-held traditional sense just keeps getting moved more and more to the fringes of contemporary entertainment. Circuses, for all of the revelry and majestical wonder they inspired only a decade ago, are in serious decline. David Blaine and Criss Angel are the magicians and mentalists of our day. Indeed the horizon looks bleak.

That is, unless you ask the Great Buck Howard. Or, rather, see the film. The Great Buck Howard follows a single mentalist (NOT magician, as he is quick to point out), as he tours the country playing third-tier cities that still look favorable on his dusty old illusions and mental feats. He predicts, he hypnotizes, and he even has a stand up and singing portion of the show. This is the type of entertainer that you just don’t see anymore. The problem is, it may be for good reason. The Great Buck Howard (played by John Malkovich) is comedically oblivious to his own irrelevance, which leads to any manner of social faux pas and moments of stifled chuckling. But it’s not until he gets a new assistant, played by the where-have-you-been Colin Hanks, that Buck is able to come to terms with himself, and in the process find the success that has left him for the past several decades.