The Great Buck Howard

An affable law-school washout (Colin Hanks) hires on as personal assistant to a stage illusionist (John Malkovich) whose salad days as a guest on The Tonight Show are three decades behind him. The young man's father (Tom Hanks, whose scenes with his real-life son pulled me right out of the story) is dismayed to see his boy squandering his time on this washed-up diva, though the gig also leads the young man into a swell romance with a cynical publicist (Emily Blunt, as sharp as ever). Writer-director Sean McGinley based his title character on the Amazing Kreskin, and it provides a suitable mainstream vehicle for Malkovich's bruised aloofness. Tom Hanks produced through his company, Playtone; the movie's sentimentality calls to mind another of his nostalgia pieces, That Thing You Do! With Steve Zahn, Adam Scott, Griffin Dunne, and Ricky Jay. PG, 87 min.

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