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Awesome: 14.29%
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1 review, 1 rating

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by Jay Seaver

"Delivers, more or less."
4 stars

No matter how bound and determined a viewer is to just sit back and enjoy "Starbuck" for the light comedy that it is, there are going to be moments when he or she can't help but think it's maybe being a little too cute. It's good at cute, though, so it's got a fair shot at entertaining its audience, unless someone is bound and determined to be cynical.

It starts with David Wozniak (Patrick Huard), an amiable fellow who drives the delivery truck for his family's Montreal butcher shop and tends to run late at that. He's kind of a bigger screw-up than that, though - he has $80,000 in debts and finds out his girlfriend Valerie (Julie LeBreton) is pregnant when she says that she doesn't think he's father material. It turns out she's way off on that, at least on one count: About twenty-odd years ago, he donated quite a bit to a sperm bank, and due to some bad practices there, he now has 533 biological children, roughly a third of which have filed suit to reveal his identity.

This is, if you'll pardon the pun, actually a pretty fertile idea. What does a guy who has never really accomplished much do when confronted with dozens-to-hundreds of examples of his potential, good or bad? What sense of responsibility does he have to each one or the group as a whole? And for all that the average person hearing about this situation may instinctively recoil, what does it mean for young adults who more than likely grew up only children in single-parent households?

Starbuck isn't close to ambitious enough to fully explore all those questions, but it works in large part because director Ken Scott and his co-writer Martin Petit touch on them. It's brief in many cases, and sometimes playing on these themes requires the biological sons and daughters we see to present a unified front that stretches disbelief. But the ideas make it in, clearly enough to be recognized but without some character explicitly making the point. That's enough general respect for the audience's intelligence to make up for some possible-but-not-likely plotting.

All of that might be for naught if the audience didn't basically like David, but he comes across pretty well. Scott and Petit don't waste a lot of time portraying him as self-centered as opposed to lazy and careless, so he's got a chance to get on the audience's good side early. Patrick Huard, then, just has to give the guy a big heart, sell some confusion and scrambling when caught in an awkward situation, and not overplay the role lest it appear he's trying too hard. This he manages; David's more than a bit of a man-child, but Huard manages to show him growing in responsibility without losing enthusiasm.

He's got a few good folks to play off. Julie LeBreton's Valerie is a nice complement, for instance, written and played as being more grounded and responsible while still being funny (in other hands, Valerie's relative pessimism could make the audience hate her); Antoine Bertrand is frazzled enough as David's stay-at-home-dad friend to occasionally make David seem the sane one. The various actors playing the children he meets are all quite pleasant and able to build their characters as individuals quickly while also reflecting David.

There are bits missing from the movie and some convenient solutions at points; those who think of that as Hollywood weaknesses may wonder just what he'll change besides the language in the American version he's currently directing. At its center, though, it's about a potential father discovering that there's no limit to the love he's got for his children, and that's a nice thing to get out of a couple hours in the theater, especially when it's presented this well.

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originally posted: 04/04/13 14:52:12
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Nantucket Film Festival For more in the 2012 Nantucket Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Seattle International Film Festival For more in the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/29/13 Frank Robinson Extremely funny movie that had a real heart to it, enjoyed it from beginning to end. 5 stars
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  22-Mar-2013 (R)
  DVD: 23-Jul-2013



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