By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
Who is Starbuck? The code name belongs to an otherwise anonymous sperm donor whose prolific ability to make his contribution to society (hey, he was young and needed the money) resulted in hundreds of offspring.
Two decades after the fact, 142 of those offspring have banded together and sued the fertility clinic to find out the name of their biological patriarch. This lawsuit has brought headlines and a certain amount of public curiosity about the identity of the almighty father. Who is Starbuck?
They might not want to know. His real name is Dave Wozniak (played by Patrick Huard), and he’s a slob. Estranged from his girlfriend, $80,000 in debt, barely competent at driving a truck for his father’s butcher shop, Dave is just scraping by.
“Starbuck” is the tale of how the lawsuit, and his new awareness of a direct DNA connection to a large percentage of Montreal’s young people, transforms Dave’s life. All of a sudden the slovenly lug gains a stature he never suspected he had.
Director Ken Scott guides this comedy through a series of events that grow less credible as they go on (the movie’s full of “Why didn’t they just do this?” moments), even if there are some genuinely funny bits along the way.
In the lead role, Patrick Huard scores nicely. A popular star in Francophone Canada, Huard has exactly the Everyman vibe needed for this balancing act: We can believe he’s really this much of a screw-up, but there’s something amiable and good-hearted flickering inside the mess.
The film doesn’t waste any time going straight for the sentimental gotcha (there’s the potential for 142 such moments, after all), a tactic that gets repetitive after a while. It’s an easy enough film to like, even if you wish they’d tried harder to make it plausible (a courtroom section is especially annoying for its unlikely developments).
In other words, there’s an inspired movie waiting to get out of this compromised one.
And wouldn’t you know it, director Scott will get a chance to make adjustments: There’s already an English-language remake of “Starbuck” in the can, to be released later this year under the title “Delivery Man.” Vince Vaughn stars, in a re-definition of the phrase “Who’s your daddy?”
“Starbuck” (2 stars)
A Montreal schlub (Patrick Huard) learns he is the target of a lawsuit by 142 people to find out the identity of their biological father, an anonymous sperm donor. This comedy goes for sentimental gotcha moments, although Huard makes a likable-loser hero. In French, with English subtitles.
Rated: R for subject matter.
Showing: Meridian, Sundance.