The Great Buck Howard appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though the movie remained perfectly watchable, the transfer never excelled.
Sharpness varied. Most shots demonstrated good delineation, but more than a few exceptions occurred. Wide shots tended to be somewhat soft and fuzzy, so they created occasional distractions. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but edge enhancement cropped up through the film; I noticed mild haloes a fair amount of the time. The flick also tended to be a bit grainy, but other source flaws failed to appear.
Colors looked fairly ordinary. The image took on a golden tone much of the time, but the image stayed with a pretty natural impression. The hues seemed acceptable but they weren’t particularly strong. Blacks appeared reasonably dark and tight, while shadows showed decent delineation; some low-light shots were a bit too thick, though. All of this was good enough for a mediocre “C”.
I also thought the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Howard remained unexceptional, though it worked better than the visuals. Of course, I didn’t expect a dazzling soundfield from this sort of comedy, and I got exactly what I anticipated. In terms of effects, general ambience ruled the day. Surround usage stayed limited; the back speakers gently fleshed out various settings but did little more than that.
In those forward channels, the music provided nice stereo separation and opened up the mix reasonably well. There wasn’t a whole lot of activity or movement, but the effects conveyed a passable sense of space and place. The track functioned appropriately for the story.
Audio quality appeared fine. The music was the strongest aspect of the track, as the score showed nice vivacity and impact. Dialogue was consistently warm and natural. Effects were a minor component of the mix, and they seemed appropriately subdued and accurate; there wasn’t much to hear, but the various elements were clean and distinct. This was a standard “comedy mix” and became a decent reproduction of the material.
When we head to the set’s extras, we begin with an audio commentary from writer/director Sean McGinly and actor Colin Hanks. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They discuss autobiographical aspects of the film, story and characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, editing, and improvisation.
At its best, the commentary provides a decent look at the film. I really like the bits in which McGinly tells us how the flick connects to his experiences with the Amazing Kreskin, and it’s also fun to hear about outtakes and altered sequences. Unfortunately, the track comes with a fair amount of dead air, so it drags at times. Still, there’s enough good content to make it worthwhile.
Cut footage shows up in the next three areas. We look at three Deleted Scenes(3:03), five Extended Scenes (9:44) and three Outtakes (3:39). Nothing major happens in the “Deleted Scenes”, but they’re fun, especially when Buck deals with a chipper driver in Florida.
The “Extended Scenes” add to the TV show appearances briefly glimpsed in the final cut. Clearly they would’ve made the movie too long, but it’s cool to get to see them in their extended form. As for the “Outtakes”, they offer alternate versions of existing clips. Nothing spectacular emerges, but they’re also entertaining.
Behind the Scenes runs nine minutes, 35 seconds and features McGinly, Hanks, producer Gary Goetzman, and actors John Malkovich and Emily Blunt. The program looks at story and characters, cast and performances, bringing the project to the screen, and some production details. Don’t expect a lot from “Scenes”, as it’s a pretty superficial look at the flick.
A promotional program shows up via the four-minute, 27-second HDNet: A Look at The Great Buck Howard. It provides notes from Hanks, Malkovich and Blunt. “Look” is even more promo-oriented than “Scenes”. It just recaps the characters and stories, so it turns into nothing more than an extended trailer.
We end with The Amazing Kreskin. In this five-minute, 47-second featurette, we hear from mentalist Kreskin as he discusses his career and his reaction to the movie. Kreskin was the real-life inspiration for Buck, so it’s fun to hear from him.
A few ads open the DVD. We get clips for Mutant Chronicles, Big Man Japan, Food, Inc. and HDNet. No trailer for Howard appears here.
While it suffers from one bad casting choice and some pacing issues, The Great Buck Howard succeeds for one simple reason: it’s fun. It boasts a mostly great cast and keeps us engaged during its amusing ride. The DVD provides mediocre picture, decent audio and an acceptable collection of supplements. Howard turns into a charming and enjoyable flick.