This is the sixth in a series of stories from the 2008 Starz Denver Film Festival, where 215 films were shown from November 13-23. The 150 filmmakers invited represent the city’s 150th anniversary, which was celebrated November 22. This film had two sold-out screenings, on November 19 and 20, at the Starz Film Center on the Auraria campus.
Give it up for The Great Buck Howard. The guy who put the mental into mentalist is eagerly waiting in the wings, practically begging for someone to love him. He just lives to entertain, and will trick his audience into believing they will enjoy almost anything he throws at them.
Is it all an illusion? Like the fictional performer, the film by the same name will keep you guessing. It’s cute, funny, sweet, and charming at times, and features a bravura performance by John Malkovich in the title role originally intended for Kevin Kline.
You might get fooled into liking The Great Buck Howard, but what if The Big Finish turns out to be The Big Letdown?
John Malkovich (Buck Howard); Colin Hanks (Troy Gabel); Ricky Jay (Gil Bellamy); Emily Blunt, (Valerie Brennan).
B.J. Hendricks (Burly); Jacquie Barnbrook (Sheila Haller).
Sean McGinly (Brothers, Two Days).
What’s Up His Sleeve?
Like Randy “The Ram” Robinson in The Wrestler, Howard is another down-on-his-luck entertainer trying to stage a comeback. Only he thinks people still like him, really like him.
Well, he does have a fan base ... in sleepy towns like Bakersfield, California and Wausau, Wisconsin, where the early bird diners seek some safe, wholesome entertainment before it’s time to call it a night.
And Howard gives it to them. Magic tricks and card tricks (which he prefers to call “effects”), mind reading, piano playing (to a spoken-word rendition of “What the World Needs Now Is Love”), corny jokes, and hypnotism are all part of his crass act. But, hey, he’s been on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson 61 times (and not with “the nitwit who’s on there now,” he’s quick to point out). Other shining moments include appearances on shows hosted by Jim Nabors, John Davidson, and Sally Jessy Raphael.