Starbuck: Film Review
Ken Scott's French-Canadian comedy follows a prolifically successful sperm donor as he surreptitiously meets his now-grown children.
A lovable underachiever unwittingly spawns his own village in Starbuck, Ken Scott's crowd-pleasing comedy exploring various meanings of fatherhood in the modern age. Already slated for a DreamWorks remake starring Vince Vaughn, the Montreal-set charmer would be an easy sell in multiplexes if not for pesky French subtitles.
Patrick Huard plays David, a delivery man for his family's butcher shop who learns that his lucrative late-'80s stint as a sperm donor has resulted in a staggering 533 successful pregnancies. Over a hundred of those now-twentysomethings, having learned they share the same biological father, are suing the fertility clinic to reveal the identity of the prolific donor code-named Starbuck.
Panicked by the prospect of being unmasked, but curious about his progeny, David becomes a covert guardian angel. Working through plaintiffs like the list-checking hero of My Name Is Earl, he spies on youths and finds himself doing favors both small and life-altering; eventually he joins their community of fellow-adoptees, making a half-true excuse to get to know them without revealing himself.
Huard, whiskered and beer-bellied, projects a bumbling benevolence that works well here, leaving David -- a man-child who has avoided fatherhood in its traditional form and whose girlfriend is understandably reluctant to share her surprise pregnancy with him -- pleasantly surprised at how well these encounters play out. Viewers likely will share that surprise, as will cynics who understandably expect much more sappiness than the film delivers. (Opportunities for sentimentality are everywhere, of course, but a comically oversized group hug is about as syrupy as things get.)
Scott and collaborator Martin Petit's script never really explains the urgency of the legal battles over David's anonymity, and some ante-upping contrivances in the third act ring false. But the laughs don't flag, thanks in part to David's friend Paul (Antoine Bertrand), a dad who has actually had to live with the kids he fathered: Acting as David's attorney, he does everything he can to keep his pal away from the joys of parenthood.
Venue: Seattle International Film Festival, Gala Presentations
Production Company: Caramel Films
Cast: Patrick Huard, Antoine Bertrand, Julie le Breton, David Michael, Patrick Martin
Director: Ken Scott
Screenwriters: Ken Scott, Martin Petit
Producers: Andre Rouleau, Valerie d’Auteuil, Jasmyrh Lemoine, Danny Rosner
Director of photography: Pierre Gill
Production designer: Danielle Labrie
Music: David Lafleche
Costume designer: Sharon Scott
Editor: Yvann Thibaudeau
Sales: Charlotte Mickie, eOne Entertainment
No rating, 108 minutes