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The Great Buck Howard

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As a down-on-his-luck, Kreskin-style mentalist reduced to performing his “effects” for easily impressed old biddies in nondescript hick towns, John Malkovich delivers a bravura comic performance that’s richer and funnier than the material deserves. Written and directed by Sean McGinly, the film putters along amiably without ever quite delivering on its solid-gold premise. Yet Malkovich is such an irrepressible force of nature — he commands the screen like nobody’s business and makes Buck’s prima-donna act strangely endearing — that it’s easy to cut it some slack. Providing charming back-up support to Malkovich’s tour de force are Colin Hanks and The Devil Wears Prada scene-stealer Emily Blunt as, respectively, Buck’s wet-behind-the-ears assistant and his no-nonsense publicist. As Hanks’ dad, co-producer Tom Hanks turns up briefly for two killer scenes that hint at the more fully realized movie this might have been if McGinly had given his script an additional polish. Cedar Lee Theatre. HHH

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