By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s called Starbuck, but it’s got nothing to do with coffee — even though it does involve a cup.
It’s a Canadian comedy about a guy who suddenly finds out that he’s sort of the father of his country.
Starbuck stars easy-to-root-for Patrick Huard as David Wozniak, a self-absorbed 42-year-old slacker manchild who works -– but not very enthusiastically or reliably -– as a delivery man for his family’s butcher shop and serves as the black sheep of the family.
He’s informed by the sperm-donor clinic where he was a major depositor in 1988 that it turns out he has fathered 533 children. Furthermore, 142 of them, each in his or her early twenties, have filed a class-action lawsuit to reveal his identity and meet him.
(The title, by the way, refers to the alias he used at the sperm bank, the name of a Canadian Holstein bull that produced thousands of progeny by artificial insemination.)
He’s also being pursued by loan-shark thugs whom he owes a considerable amount of money, and he has a pregnant girlfriend who doesn’t feel he’s mature or responsible enough to be a dad.
But at the prospect of widespread fatherhood, a quick transformation occurs in David, who decides to track down (well, stalk) some of his children and become their unacknowledged guardian angel.
Director Ken Scott’s (Sticky Fingers) French-Canadian dramedy, which he co-wrote with Martin Petit, is a sweet-natured affair, one which glosses over any of the legal, moral, or ethical ramifications of the premise and instead focuses on the emotional and comedic implications.
Duly noted: that’s the movie Scott wanted to make.
But part of what makes Starbuck seem more cartoonish than it needs to be are the extravagant numbers involved. Wouldn’t it have been more manageable if the number of children wasn’t over 500 and the number of plaintiffs wasn’t over 100? Couldn’t the same smiles have been induced and the same heartstrings plucked with a more manageable number of participants? And couldn’t we then have gotten to know more of the characters in a less superficial way?
That said, although this unpretentious film might fall short on the ambitiousness scale, it boasts a surface charm that goes a surprisingly long way, as well as a collection of moments of considerable poignancy, many of them delivered by the understated and likable Huard.
And with a premise this pregnant with possibilities, it’s no surprise to learn that there will be an American remake by the same director — which has been re-titled The Delivery Man — coming our way in the fall of this year that will star Vince Vaughn. Let’s see if writer-director Scott gets those runaway numbers under control in the redo.
In the meantime, we’ll conceive of 3 stars out of 4 for this amiable anonymous-fatherhood lark, Starbuck, in which a decidedly deadbeat donor dad does dozens of dutiful deeds.