Every once in a while, I need a break from the double-dealing dark side and so I indulge in lighter fare. The premise of “Starbuck,” a French-Canadian comedy co-written and directed by Ken Scott, promises an offbeat angle for its humor.
Based on real events, it’s the story of a 42-year-old man-boy named David Wosniak (Patrick Huard) who, on the brink of having a child with his girlfriend (Julie Le Breton), discovers that in fact he already has 533 children, thanks to his frequent sperm donations (under the name Starbuck) at a fertility clinic near his home. His offspring are now adults and 142 of them file a class-action lawsuit to determine the identity of their biological father.
Huard is an extremely appealing actor and is ideally cast as the good-hearted bumbler; Le Breton and the rest of the cast offer solid support. The problem is that “Starbuck” – primarily due to its clumsy, sometimes forced, script – doesn’t live up to its potential. As the stuff-happens plot unfolds, David’s life becomes slightly more chaotic. But it wasn’t particularly orderly to begin with and, since he’s open to meeting these strangers/children and involving himself in their lives, there’s not a whole lot at stake.
Again and again, we see that despite being a little reckless and a lot feckless, he’s a decent guy with a big heart. Nice. And now he’s going to make that 534 kids. Also nice, except that there’s so little dramatic tension, it’s very hard to get swept up in what should be a crazy adventure (but isn’t) and even harder to play the laughs.
Despite having the perfect ingredients for a cinematic soufflé, “Starbuck” falls flat. There is a U.S. version in the works called “The Delivery Man,” slated for a fall release, which just might be that rare instance in which a Hollywood remake of a foreign film yields a classic confection.
“Starbuck” opens today in New York and LA, with a national rollout to follow. (In French with subtitles.)