Tom Hanks is probably a cool dad. But he doesn’t need to buy his kid a starring role. Colin Hanks is a decent enough actor, and given the opportunity to drift along the career riptide that took a Scott Caan or Casey Affleck to cinematic legitimacy he might have turned out alright. Instead, Pop made a rookie stage parent mistake, thrusting his underdeveloped gosling into the limelight to share the stage with people out of his league. I mean, fucking Malkovich, man! You don’t try to stand up to the likes of Malkovich when you’re only decent screen time was as straight man to Jack Black’s hairy manchild in Orange County. My dad taught me to swim by throwing me in the pool, too, but he had the common sense not to fill my bathing suit with nickels. MALKOVICH!
I blame Sean McGinty, the writer-director who has something like twelve credits to his pen — and none that you’ve heard of unless your Netflix queue fucking hates you. McGinty creates this brilliant persona of Buck Howard, an unbelievably awkward and viciously arrogant vaudevillian still charming crowds like a Knightless Pip. Malkovich owns this role, just absolutely owns this entire film, so much so that whenever he’s not on screen, everything else seems lackluster and dreary. McGinty wisely surrounds his son with a bevy of quirky cameos (Gary Coleman!) and a stellar support team — including Emily Blunt as a saucy PR lass and Steve Zahn as a hayseed chauffeur, and my personal hero Ricky Jay as Howard’s manager. Their interactions with Howard serve to buoy the film whenever things might be sagging.
But then, there’s Colin.
Poor, poor Colin. McGinty foolishly decides to center the film around Troy Gabel, a law student displeased with the silver platter on which is life has been served. I know this, because during a law school exam, Troy shouts “I’m not happy!” So naturally, Troy decides to become a writer, the logical pursuit of which leads him to become Buck Howard’s assistant. Colin Hanks proceeds to suck the fucking life out of every scene he’s in like he’s auditioning for either the Twilight sequel or gay snuff porn. He’s worse than wallpaper, he’s like a finger painting done by a psychotic retard slapped up in the background of every frame, distracting you with his mediocrity. Or else he’s staring in the distance while his lame voiceover drolls obvious plot points, proving the point that unless you are a vaunted black actor, you don’t need to be narrating a film. Which again, is a shame because Colin Hanks could be a somewhat decent actor if left to his own devices. Shame about Hanks gumping that up for junior.
McGinty wasn’t satisfied enough with letting his producer’s brat drag his ass across the carpet from which Malkovich is trying to give us gold. He decided to take what could have been a hilarious character study and turn it into a melodrama so sappy, IHOP sanctioned it to pour on pancakes. Go back to film school, Sean. Trust me, like the rest of the entertainment industry, they won’t give a shit about what you’ve done before. Go get a soul patch and make angry documentaries about how hookers are charging more in this troubled economy. Leave the charm to the professionals.
Brian Prisco lives in a pina down by the mer-port of Burbank, by way of the cheesesteak-laden arteries of Philadelphia. Any and all grumblings can be directed to priscogospel at hotmail dot com.