Starbuck – Review


A French comedy where generosity leads to accidental fatherhood 533 times over.

Starbuck has nothing to do with successful Seattle coffee chain. The film’s premise suggests wacky shenanigans in dealing with accidental fatherhood and perpetual man-childishness. Surprisingly, it doesn’t star Seth Rogen or Vince Vaughn, because this is a French-Canadian production. (Sure enough, American version, called The Delivery Man, will star Vince Vaughn.)

If being a man-child and dealing with fatherhood seems a lot like Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up well you’re not far off. Co-writer/director Ken Scott takes a similar approach before he goes searching for something meaningful. The comedy is about one man’s benevolent generosity in the form of donation. 648 sperm donations to be precise. For ne’er-do-well David Wozniak (Peter Huard), a Montreal meat delivery man, he made the donations at a time (the eighties) when the rules were less strict when it came to putting his white substance into a cup. Now it’s twenty years later and his best friend Paul (Antoine Bertrand), Canada’s answer to Breaking Bad‘s Saul Goodman, only cleaner and with more scruples but just as funny, tells him that the substance abuse he did with his man juice have matured into 533 adult children, 142 of whom wish to meet him.

Thus begins the jumping off point to Starbuck, a hit comedy in its native Canada that is slowly trickling to screens in America. The laughs aren’t huge but are aplenty. The biggest selling point is its premise. The title refers to the alias David used when making his $35-a-pop donations (a descriptor that takes on a whole new meaning with the large quantity of offspring he helped produce). A situational comedy with a strong lead, this import from America’s Hat does its best to sidestep convention before becoming a sugary confection comedy that will either make audiences sentimental or give them diabetes.

Threatened by loan sharks while learning that his hot-and-cold relationship with girlfriend Valerie (Julia LeBreton) has resulted in a pregnancy offers added complication to a life that’s been full of disappointments for David. Generally disinterested when it comes to being responsible, David is a regrettable failure. It’s only when he learns he’s a donor dad 533 times over that David has a eureka moment where he wants to better his life and meet a few of his kids in the process. Consider it an extreme makeover in the form of working in a guardian angel fashion while also maintaining his anonymity.

Ken Scott should be commended for not turning Starbuck into a runaway freight train of crass jokes, taking an absurd premise and handling it with a degree of seriousness. David may be a 42-year-old man-child whose wardrobe mainly consists of long-sleeved hockey tees, but when confronted with the idea of having fathered 533 children he feels the need to want to redeem himself for his perpetual obtuseness when it comes to family matters.

David casually befriends a few of his children, which includes a struggling actor, a junkie and a young man with MS. As such, David’s life becomes that much more enriching. While he barely scratches the surface in dealing with a few of his kids, his vulnerability shows when faced with the difficulties of communicating and being there for a person with Multiple Sclerosis. That episode alone frees David from being just another one-dimensional character that finds himself in a wacky situation.

By having David face his man-childishness head on he gains a sense of worth and the comedy is all the better for it. It helps that Peter Huard is a convincing ne’er-do-well and adept at generating laughs.

Disappointingly so Starbuck is likely to be avoided by those who hate to read subtitles. So Ken Scott is on board to do the U.S. version as already mentioned. While I’m sure it won’t be as simple as supplying the cast with copies of the original script, the Hollywood transition shouldn’t be a daunting task. Just change hockey fandom to football and lose and few ah-boots and call it day.

At 109 minutes the comedy isn’t overly long (as compared to a Judd Apatow production) but there is a good amount of filler in the form of musical interludes and montages. With an overlong third act, which takes a novel premise and has it become a saccharine indulgence, Starbuck is still an enjoyable comedy about what it takes to be a father: or, a cautionary tale on not to be a $35-a-pop pop.

Director: Ken Scott
Writer: Ken Scott, Martin Petit
Notable Cast: Patrick Huard, Antoine Bertrand, Julie Le Breton, Igor Ovadis