The Great Buck Howard
No one does raging unlovability quite like John Malkovich, who’s a total gas when he drops the bombast that often bogs down his more serious roles. Not that Buck Howard, the once-great mentalist now playing to half-empty theaters in Hicksville, lacks for pathos — or glory. His lounge act is excruciating, his stand-up terrible. Based on a magician known to writer-director Sean McGinly, this loudly dressed, insecure blowhard with a pumping handshake and severe anger-management problem may also be an ambivalent tribute to Jerry Lewis. Either way, Malkovich swallows up the screen. When he’s out of frame, the movie feels slack and slow. Buck’s assistant and McGinly’s alter ego, Troy (Colin Hanks), comes across as pallid and passionless, while the talents of Emily Blunt as a go-getting publicist and Steve Zahn as a small-town fan wretchedly go to waste. McGinly sheds no tears for this clown, and he makes a beguiling case for following your bliss all the way to Bakersfield, if that’s where it lies.