Right Brained Releasing

For about its first half-hour, "Duck" comes across as a curiously quirky two-hander about a despondent widower (Philip Baker Hall) who embarks on a meaningful relationship with a lost baby duck who waddles into his life at a particularly vulnerable moment.

Alas, the film ain't all it's quacked up to be.

Perhaps concerned about selling a feature in which one character essentially does all the talking, writer-director Nic Bettauer sends the man and his duck on a journey through the colder streets of a Los Angeles circa 2009, at a time when they're draining the last city park pond to make way for a housing development.

It's also become a place where every homeless person seems to be a deep-thinking philosopher and where one can find true sanctuary in the corner Vietnamese nail salon.

Bettauer has a lot of serious things to put across about survival in the big, unfeeling metropolis, and while her modern-day fable obviously has Capra-esque intentions, the maudlin results cry out for a better focused, more sharply executed plan of attack.

Respected veteran Hall adds a real poignancy to his role of a retired history professor who meets up with his fine-feathered friend during his greatest hour of need.

But the film loses its webbed footing the moment they hit the road and meet up with a distracting parade of familiar TV faces (among them French Stewart, Bill Brochtrup and Amy Hill as the pedicurist with a heart of gold), who seem to have as much trouble as the director does in finding a suitable tone.

Maybe they all should have taken their cues from Joe the Duck and his stunt doubles, who pull off their respective performances swimmingly.