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Duck - arthouse and international DVD / drama DVD / comedy DVD review
DUCK Rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 3 stars
Actors: Philip Baker Hall, Bill Brochtrup, Amy Hill, Larry Cedar, French Stewart, Bill Cobbs
Director: Nicole Bettauer   Studio: Westlake
DVD release: 22 July 2008   Runtime: 96 minutes (1 disc)
Format: Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, NTSC
DVD Features: Audio Tracks (English), Audio commentary by director Nic Bettauer and actor Philip Baker Hall;,Interviews, Cast bios, Desktop downloads, Theatrical trailer, Photo gallery, Movie poster

Philip Baker Hall brings credibility to any role he takes on. You've likely seen him before even if you don't recognize the name. Hall plays Arthur in Duck, a film with an incredible heart in places. Arthur, we find out in the first few moments of the film, is alone in the world. His wife has died after a long illness and his son died too young. His twitchy landlord is eager to kick him out as he is behind on rent.

Arthur plants a tree and mixes his wife's ashes in with the dirt at the base (in a scene guaranteed to pull you in and choke you up). As Arthur considers ending his own existence, his hero walks out of the mist: a duckling who's also lost all his family. Arthur and his duck, whom he calls Joe, are now a team, neither any longer alone in the world. Arthur does get kicked out by his landlord and sets up camp where his wife and son's trees stand.

Duck shows us America a few years hence. It was first shown in 2005, filmed in 2003, but the action takes place in 2009. Jeb Bush is president and it seems Social Security has disappeared, social programs have dried up, and parks are being converted to landfills in an ugly America that just doesn't give a damn any more. Or maybe Los Angeles is just like that, I don't know. Arthur and his duck spend most of the film walking west to the beach. On the way, as with any on-the-road type of buddy movie, they encounter many people and affect them in positive ways, mostly: Jeffery (French Stewart), a man at the end of his rope; Linh (Amy Hill), a pedicurist who tells Arthur what her father said - "There are two kinds of people. We're the other kind"; Norman (Bill Cobbs), a blind man who tries in vain to buy Arthur and his duck a trip across town on a bus.

There is some wonderful heart in Duck, but as a whole the film is uneven. A few silly bits take away from the film, as when the animal control officers come to capture Joe. They end up totally trashing Arthur and Joe's campsite in a slapstick way that just doesn't seem to fit with the film up to that point. Other pieces don't fit, as when Arthur tries to shoo Joe off, thinking he'd be better off without him - it doesn't flow in the context of the previous scenes. I'm sure some of this had to do with the 18-day shooting schedule and estimated $300,000 budget.

Nic Bettauer has made a nice film that unfortunately feels unfinished, rough around the edges. The way Arthur's family history is told is excellent, and the scene when Arthur plants his wife's tree is etched forever in my mind. These scenes leave me wanting more from Ms. Bettauer. I look forward to her next film.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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