Director: Ken Scott
Stars: Patrick Huard, Julie LeBreton, Antoine Betrand
It is absolutely overstating it to say that this Canadian comedy about a beleaguered sperm donor is the “feel good” film of the year. But it is no exaggeration to say that this French-language import is closer in tone to the touching “The Kids are All Right” than it is to Jay Chandrasekhar’s crude farce “The Babymakers.” “Starbuck” is the pseudonym David (Patrick Huard) used when he earned considerable money — for a good cause — by making deposits to a cryobank years ago. But currently, there is a situation stemming from all of the sperm he donated: Of the 533 children David “fathered,” 142 of them have launched a class action lawsuit asking him to reveal his identity.
Yet David is reluctant to expose himself, especially given the backlash attitudes expressed by friends, family members, the media and even perfect strangers regarding his activities. Much of “Starbuck” concerns this not-quite-lovable loser trying to secretly meet the kids he spawned. Wisely, the film’s gentle humor stems less from the comic potential of David meddling in his kids’ lives and more from folks like his best friend and father of four (Antoine Bertrand) advising him never to reproduce. Of course, David’s girlfriend Valerie (Julie LeBreton) is pregnant and pressuring him to man up and show he has what it takes to be a dad.
Whereas David has long made a series of bad decisions, he thinks he can do some good — and more importantly, find meaning and purpose in his life — by assisting his children guardian angel style. Unfortunately, “Starbuck” wears such noble intentions on its sleeve when David’s bonding with his disabled son gets saccharine, or his interactions with his addicted daughter gloss over deeper social issues about parenting. That said, these vignettes do emphasize the film’s worthy point of redefining family.
If “Starbuck” has a far-fetched comic premise, it succeeds because Patrick Huard is amusing in the title role. He generates many smiles with his hangdog expressions, exaggerated body language, and deft comic timing — just marvel as he pulls a ticket off a windshield with his teeth. David grows up because he suddenly feels responsibility to others, and Huard makes his journey both credible and satisfying. Even if “Starbuck” is contrived, it is never tasteless. May the American remake — with Vince Vaughn and Chris Pratt, due later this year — be so refined.