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The Great Buck Howard

The Amazing Kreskin gets his due (of sorts) in this dramedy

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Under 40 and confused? Kreskin, who did a mentalist act, was a staple of television variety and talk shows in the 1970s. In this loosely based fictional account written and directed by Sean McGinley, it's the Great Buck Howard (John Malkovich) who still wears the out-of-fashion tuxedos, gamely playing half-empty halls in small towns. When circumstances propel a minor event into the mix of today's 24-7 media loop, Howard flirts with updating his act and finally grabbing the brass ring. The crotchety, idiosyncratic Howard is a great showcase for a relatively restrained Malkovich. But while the cameos by other real-life has-been celebs are fun ("You can call me Ray ..."), this intermittently entertaining film is hampered by its hackneyed structure. Our entry into Howard's world is by way of his new naive assistant, Troy (Colin Hanks): A better character study wouldn't need to resort to Troy's bemused voiceovers or his last-reel epiphany of Howard's real worth. In the end, Howard is still an intriguing enigma. Much like hiss out-of-date act, there's some worthy show-biz gold here, but it's buried beneath a clunky set-up. Starts Fri., April 3. Manor

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