Generally speaking, moms have it good. They get the love, the flowers, and about a million representations of their greatness depicted in various film and TV productions. But where's the attention for the dads out there? Luckily, we have some sympathty for the joys and pains of fatherhood in the recent French-Canadian comedy Starbuck. The film deals with the situation a lovable loser finds himself in as he discovers that he's a parent - 533 times over.
Starbuck's lightly exaggerated story revolves around the middle aged, responsibility-dodging David Wozniak, winningly played by hangdog-faced Canadian actor Patrick Huard (Funkytown). At first, David is depicted as an affable yet immature 42 year-old who somewhat pathetically still lives like a college student. Delivering goods for his family's meat supply warehouse, Davis is afflicted with an ADD-like inability to complete simple tasks - much less commit to a full-fledged, lasting relationship with a woman. He's actually looking for some stability in his life when his policewoman ex-girlfriend, Valerie (Julie LeBreton), announces that she's pregnant with his child. Then, he's hit with the revelation that his donations to a local sperm bank more than twenty years earlier yielded 533 children, 142 of whom have filed a class action lawsuit demanding the true identity of their father (known to them as Starbuck, the alias he used).
Throughout Starbuck, director-screenwriter Ken Scott keeps the hard-to-believe aspects of the story grounded with fully realized characters and genuine heart. The plot's validity is especially tested when David receives an envelope containing names, photos and bios of all 142 offspring involved in the lawsuit. He decides to act as a friendly mentor to each child, and (in a borderline-cheesy montage) attempts to steer each one's life towards the better. His benefactors include an aspiring actor, a woman trying to overcome drug addiction, a lifeguard, a street musician, and a mentally handicapped young man. Needing to repay a debt to thugs who keep harassing him, David enlists the help of his lawyer buddy Avocat (Antoine Bertrand) in filing a counter suit against the sperm bank. With the lawsuits and Starbuck's mysterious whereabouts blowing up into a worldwide news story, it becomes more difficult for David to mingle with his offspring while keeping his cover. He also has to deal with getting back on good terms with Valerie (who abhors Starbuck), as he takes on the responsibility of bringing his 534th child into the world.
Although it has the trappings of a standard-issue mainstream comedy, Starbuck is above all else a touching drama benefiting from some excellent performances (I especially enjoyed Igor Ovadis as David's patient widower dad). Ken Scott's directing style is pretty straightforward, heavily relying on montages scored to twee indie pop to convey David's adjusting to multi-parenthood (if anything can be used to slam this film, it's the unsubtle use of scoring and music). The premise may be utterly ridiculous, but the project is well-grounded with beautifully realized characters and sense of place. This charming crowd pleaser would make a fine tester for those who are leery about watching foreign-language films. I'm almost tempted to want a sequel, to see what David, Valerie and his dozens of offspring are doing five years onward.
If the concept and execution of Starbuck seems kind of Hollywood-ish, it might come as no surprise to know that Ken Scott has already remade the film in English for a major Hollywood studio, DreamWorks. The American version, starring Vince Vaughn and retitled The Delivery Man to avoid confusion with a certain ubiquitous coffee purveyor, is set to be released later in 2013.
Entertainment One's disc edition of Starbuck comes packaged in the standard keep case, but one thing worth pointing out is that the DVD label design contains a variant on the film's logo art not used on the (boring) exterior package. It cleverly incorporates a sperm cell.
The 2.35:1 letterboxed image looks somewhat grainy and over-saturated with color, more of an artistic decision from filming on 35mm stock than the result of faulty mastering to disc. Fine light and dark balances and the lack of any outstanding flaws make it a pleasant looking transfer.
The ever-present music in Starbuck aggressively gets mixed in with the dialogue at louder volume levels, but otherwise it's a good, clean sounding track lacking in noticeable blemishes. Optional English subtitles are included.
Brief yet illuminating interviews are included with Patrick Huard (5:31) and Ken Scott (6:44). The disc also contains the ever-amusing bloopers (6:47), nearly nine minutes worth of deleted scenes, a theatrical trailer, and a music video from David Giguere, who plays the street musician in the film. A few automatic previews for other Entertainment One releases round out the bonus content.
The warm and perceptive 2011 French-Canadian comedy Starbuck delves into the complications that arise when a middle-aged loser (appealingly played by Patrick Huard) discovers that he fathered hundreds of children via sperm bank donations. The absurdity of the story and Ken Scott's manipulative direction sometimes gets in the way, but overall this is a heartwarming effort that demonstrates what it means to be human. Recommended.
Matt Hinrichs is a designer, artist, film critic and dilettante-of-all-trades in Phoenix, Arizona. 4 Color Cowboy is his repository of Western-kitsch imagery, while other films he's seen are logged at Letterboxd. He also welcomes friends on Twitter @4colorcowboy.