The French-Canadian, award-winning comedy film “Starbuck,” co-written and directed by Ken Scott was a runaway box office smash in Canada. The film has already been snapped up as an American remake, re-titled “The Delivery Man,” starring Vince Vaughn, Cobie Smulders and Chris Pratt with Scott returning to direct. So what’s all the hoopla concerning this film? Does it deliver?
In a word, yes!
Scott, along with co-writer Martin Petit, set out to make a comedy about an obsessive sperm donor. Per the film’s production notes, they thought it would be funny to write a film about a lovable screw-up who fathered 150 children through his recreational, money-earning sperm donations. But during the course of pre-production, a news story broke that a man actually did father 500 children. So the two writers’ lead character, David Wozniak (Patrick Huard) became a 42-year-old who discovers that he literally fathered 533 children, now young adults.
Working at his family’s butcher shop run by his father and two brothers, David is the unreliable slacker. Deep in debt, thugs always show up at his apartment and threaten to hurt him, but never do serious harm. He also has a police girlfriend, Valerie (Julie Le Breton), who reveals she is pregnant, but won’t accept him as father until he becomes “responsible.”
So David tries to straighten out his life. Then he receives a visit from the fertility clinic where he made numerous deposits some years ago. It seems David’s sperm was very, very fertile and he has anonymously fathered 533 children. Now 142 of those kids want to find out his identity and are suing the clinic to do so.
Let the hijinks begin.
What could be a ridiculous, sappy farce turns out to be humorous and poignant story about a man who anonymously, yet inquisitively explores his young adult kids’ lives. Some are happy, living good lives. Others are struggling, even at risk to themselves. David tries to be some type of guardian angel to the kids, but “the road to good intentions …” you can picture the rest.
The 142 kids do find comfort in their newfound brothers and sisters. Will David as well? In the middle of a lawsuit, David’s lawyer (Antoine Bertrand) advises his client to retain anonymity, but David’s history suggests he’ll probably screw this up too.
Director Scott handles the subject matter with deft skill. What could become slapstick stays grounded. Scenes that could easily play over the top play authentic. Naturally some plot points are a little pat, and wrap up easily. But, for this type of genre, it seems fitting. One just wonders if Hollywood’s remake with Vince Vaughn as David will have the same emotional restraint.
Ken Scott’s “Starbuck” is a charming, yet skewered take on fatherhood. But its heart and humor makes this original tale worth checking out.
“Starbuck” is 108 minutes, Rated R, and opens March 22 in Los Angeles and New York before expanding to select cities.
For other film reviews by Lori Huck, check out:
Nora Ephron lives on through drama, romantic-comedy classics
AFI FEST 2012: Gala Screening of ‘Life of Pi’ and a Virtual Ang Lee
‘Stoker’ Film Review: Stylistic Visuals and Skilled Cast Elevate This Horror Film