Thursday, 14 March 2013

Spunky comedy - Starbuck


Spunky comedy

The hero of Starbuck is a bit of a wanker.  Literally.  We first meet good-natured, 40-something loser David Wozniak (Patrick Huard) as he’s listlessly knocking one out at the Montreal sperm bank where he’s been making regular deposits for over 20 years under the pseudonym Starbuck. 

A less-than-reliable delivery boy for his family’s butcher shop and an unsuccessful pot grower, David has managed to completely avoid responsibility his whole life.  But when his cop girlfriend Valerie (Julie LeBreton) announces she’s pregnant he’s forced to grow up fast, forsaking his freewheeling bachelor lifestyle, if he wants to be a father to his unborn child.

Unfortunately, David’s also just found out from the sperm bank that thanks to his particularly fruitful babyjuice, he’s already an unwitting father – of 533 children!  What’s more, 142 of them have just launched a class action suit against him and the clinic that will force him to reveal his identity.  As the case becomes a media circus and David struggles to remain anonymous, he becomes curious about his biological children, begins inserting himself into their lives, becoming both friend and covert guardian angel, getting to know them without revealing his identity, changing their lives in ways both big and small.

While it’s about 25 minutes too long and treads similar ground to last year’s documentary Donor Unknown, Starbuck is a sweetly sentimental but, importantly, not cloyingly so, French-Canadian comedy.  Already gearing up for a Spielberg-produced Hollywood remake starring Frat Pack doofus-in-chief Vince Vaughn, it’s never quite as funny as it thinks it is but at least it’s not the smutty gross-out fest it could’ve been.  What’s the bets someone, probably Katherine Heigl or Elizabeth Banks or whoever else ends up playing the girlfriend, gets a mooshful of sploosh in the Vince Vaughn version?  It’s witty without being bawdy, gently funny without ever reducing itself to the sappiness always bubbling under the surface. 

There’s no real urgency to the script and certainly no surprises.  Every beat of the film is predictable but it’s crowd-pleasingly likeable fun; we’re never in any doubt that David’s going to end up a better man by the end or that his progeny will come to love him, but it’s a pleasant journey with amiable travelling companions.  Starbuck’s greatest strength in fact lies in its superb cast.  In the fat best friend role that’ll no doubt go to Jon Favreau, Antoine Bertrand is funny as David’s best bud Paul, a harassed dad and underachieving lawyer, while Julie LeBreton is luminous as David’s feisty, no-nonsense girlfriend.  The film stands or falls though on Patrick Huard’s excellent performance as the amiable, well-meaning man-child who becomes a bumbling force of benevolence to his new, extended family. 

Consistently gently amusing without ever making you bark with laughter, Starbuck is a crowd-pleasing movie that will actually please the crowd.

David Watson

Directed by:
Written by:
Produced by:
1 hour 49 minutes
UK Release Date:
Friday 23rd November

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