The polite way to characterize low-budget family film Starbird and Sweet William is to say that it’s a harmless story about a young Native American learning to bond with nature. Yet that description cuts Starbird and Sweet William too much slack. This cloying and dull film’s portrayal of race is about as authentic as the notion of a man forming a surrogate family with a bear, a crow, and a raccoon. Everything about Starbird and Sweet William is fake, right down to the ridiculous ending during which a brand-new character appears just in time to rescue the protagonist from mortal danger. At the beginning of the film, Starbird (A Martinez), whose tribal affiliation is never specified, leaves his reservation and takes a job as an airplane mechanic. One day, he steals a small plane for a joyride, then crashes in the Southwestern wilderness. Despite a broken arm and a shortage of supplies, Starbird survives long enough to bond with the aforementioned critters; the “Sweet William” of the title is an orphaned bear cub with whom Starbird frolics in syrupy musical montages. For most of its running time, the film has virtually no plot, instead presenting an outdoor travelogue buttressed by folksy narration courtesy of Rex Allen. (Sample: “Seeing the baby foxes and the deer, Starbird had a warm feeling of kinship with his brothers, the animals—something he’d never really felt before.”) When the filmmakers finally introduce conflict through the arrival of hunters late in the second act, it’s abrupt, clumsy, and woefully insufficient for sparking dramatic interest.
Starbird and Sweet William: LAME