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‘Starbuck’ feels contrived, creepy

Fri., April 26, 2013

Already remade into an American comedy starring Vince Vaughn and supposedly about to be remade into two other languages, “Starbuck,” a schmaltzy Quebecois smash about a sperm-donating man who inadvertently fathers more than 500 children, arrives here first in its original form. This features veteran French-Canadian leading man Patrick Huard in the role Vaughn will soon reprise.

Huard is David Wozniak aka Starbuck, a 42-year-old former fertility clinic regular and self-abuser for profit, whose Quebec cop girlfriend Valerie (Julie LeBreton) is pregnant and probably breaking up with him because he is such a loser. Working none too successfully all his life at his father’s butcher shop, where his two brothers barely tolerate his repeated screw-ups and shirking, David, who made his clinic donations in the early 1990s, is trying to pay off an $80,000 debt by growing pot in his apartment.

When David, a rabid soccer enthusiast, discovers that the clinic unethically used his donations over and over again and that some 140 of his offspring are suing the fertility clinic to find out his identity, his life changes in mysterious and not-so mysterious ways. With the help of his jovial best friend and lawyer (Antoine Bertrand), a young father who claims “reproduction is a mistake” and children are “black holes,” David receives a list of names and photos and decides to meet some of his “kids.”

Can you say, Aw? Or do you think this could be borderline awful?

Director and co-writer Ken Scott and lenser Pierre Gill know how to use a Steadicam to tell a story and make you feel like you’re a part of the action. Several of the Canadian actors playing the children are very appealing, including a street busker, a young junkie trying to turn her life around, a homeless Goth and a disabled young man in a care facility. For his part, Huard is likable enough in a rugged, deadpan kind of way.

While I am certain someone in addition to Steven Spielberg is going to find all this heartwarming, I found much of “Starbuck” contrived and creepy (maybe it was all the hanging smoked Quebecois sausages and decapitated pigs’ heads). More than anything else, the film is like a crippled Carnival cruise ship drifting inexorably toward the world’s biggest hug ending ever.


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