The best way I can describe "Starbucking" is that it is like some sort of bizarre cross between "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and "Super Size Me". The documentary focuses on Winter (who legally changed his name for reasons he won't discuss, and gets upset when anyone calls him other than Winter), a guy who appears to be in his late 20's or early 30's who has one mission: he must visit every Starbucks store. When in the midst of his quest to visit every Starbucks in America years ago, he realized that no, this would not be enough: he had to visit every Starbucks in the world. On his website ("Starbucks Everywhere") he has a photo of every 'Bucks he's visited (I looked, and, sure enough, Winter has been in every local store) and is currently at 92.3% when it comes to visiting North American locations.
What makes "Starbucking" so watchable isn't the quest itself, but the journey. Winter, who appears to suffer from OCD (this isn't really discussed, but his friends suggest OCD and maybe being bipolar and at least OCD certainly seems to be the case), even admits that his quest doesn't have a real point and, at one moment, he even admits that he's long grown tired of the quest to visit every Starbucks, although he's enjoyed being on the road. Winter will jet to London if a new Starbucks has opened there. His friends ask him what sights he's seen on his stops in major cities - he responds with a discussion of new Starbucks locations. After hotels got too expensive, Winter started sleeping in his car which, as we see in the film, has lead to run-ins with police.
While Starbucks does not endorse the film, there is some discussion of a few little gifts he's gotten from the chain. Oddly, they don't include a lifetime pass, which the guy clearly deserves - I mean, for the last 10 years, the guy has traveled the globe trying to visit every location. I'm stunned the chain hasn't made a coffee table book out of Winter's pictures of nearly every location, as they are oddly fascinating (I guess I had no idea there was that much variation in how Starbucks locations looked.)
Unlike "Super Size Me", "Starbucking" isn't about the effects of the Starbucks corporation or how bad drinking coffee all day is, but the story of one man locked in an amazing (in terms of scope), yet completely and utterly obsessive-compulsive journey that has taken him around the globe. It doesn't really say a whole lot about the coffee or the corporation, but tries to get into what makes Winter tick.
As for the effects of caffeine, they're not really discussed in any sort of scientific detail, but they are quite obvious, such as a scene when Winter starts to get an allergic reaction after drinking too much coffee on a day when he'd just broken his new record of visiting 29 locations in 1 day. His friends say he smells like coffee because he sweats it out of his pores, and one has to wonder what kind of effect all that caffeine has had on his nervous system, as he remains jittery even when a new day has started. A girlfriend tells the camera he barely sleeps at night.
"Starbucking" is admittedly a thin film (it doesn't run too far over an hour) and it really doesn't come to and end as much as just stop, but I still have to say that I was pretty fascinated, as director Bill Tangeman has certainly found a pretty odd and interesting subject.
VIDEO: "Starbucking" is presented by Heretic films in the film's original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. For a film that appears to have been shot on a consumer-grade camera, the picture looks pretty good, with respectable sharpness and detail throughout most of the scenes. Some minor shimmering is occasionally spotted, but otherwise, no artifacting or edge enhancement was seen. Colors remained natural and accurate, with no smearing or other issues.
SOUND: The film is presented with a clear, crisp stereo soundtrack.
EXTRAS: 7 deleted scenes (including a little "Scrabble" scene that'd been dropped) and trailers are included. We also get a commentary from director Bill Tangeman and star Winter, who chat about their experiences on the road filming in the documentary and provide more background on some of the locations and scenes. It's a fun, good-natured and informative track.
Final Thoughts: Winter's journey is just as interesting as Winter himself, a bizarre and unpredictable (or, better yet, "highly caffeinated") guy seemingly locked in a journey that will never end as long as new Starbucks are being built. It's certainly not a perfect film, but it's a highly watchable one. Rent it.
The Film B