Judge Michael Nazarewycz wants a paternity test.
Who's your daddy?
Because I know you were wondering, let me get this out of the way: I could never be a sperm donor. It would drive me mad knowing that there might be some mini-me out there who I am unaware of. I would suffer from knowing there would be opportunities of joy and pride missed. The baby's first everything. The little league games. The dance recitals. The proms. The need for support when failure comes to town. The need for reward when success shows instead. Maybe that mini-me becomes president someday. Maybe that mini-me cures cancer. Or maybe that mini-me isn't so lofty but is an equally important teacher or cop or soup kitchen volunteer.
I would want to know these things too badly to even entertain the thought of the anonymity being a sperm donor requires. Thus my interest in Starbuck, a comedic tale of donation and anonymity and responsibility. My hope going into it was that it might shed some light on how a man should handle learning he was a dad…hundreds of times over.
Facts of the Case
In the late 1980s, David Wozniak (Patrick Huard, Funkytown) needed money. Like many men, he turned to sperm donation to earn a few extra bucks. But unlike many (most, I'm guessing) men, David went to that well 693 times in a 23-month period. His patient code name? Starbuck.
Fast-forward to present-day, where David finds himself confronted with a problem he certainly didn't expect back when he was breezing through girlie magazines and filling little plastic cups. Through an egregious error, the clinic where David made all of his…um, deposits…used only his samples to inseminate women over an extended period of time. The net result some 20+ years later is that David's sperm fathered 533 children. Of that crowd, 142 have filed a class-action lawsuit against the clinic demanding that his identity be revealed.
While I had hope for this, I also had concern. Making a film like this work requires a delicate balance of humor and sentimentality. If you have too much of the former, your movie becomes an overlong comedy sketch about masturbating into a cup. If you have too much of the latter, your movie becomes a treacly chick flick with a male lead. Thankfully, Starbuck becomes neither, instead finding that sweet-spot in between that makes you laugh out loud while tugging at your heartstrings in the process. It's a joy to watch, and so much if it rides on how good title actor Patrick Huard is.
Huard's Wozniak, is a perpetual screw-up. He works a simple job as a delivery man for his family's butcher shop but he can't even get that right, often times taking hours longer than he should making his rounds. When his girlfriend, Valerie (Julie LeBreton, The Good Lie), tells him she is pregnant with his child, she also tells him that she will raise the child on her own because she surely can't rely on him. He can't even pick up the new jerseys for his soccer team without fouling that up too.
And yet you still love him and pity him and root for him, this charming doofus, thanks to Huard. His performance is nuanced; he's charming first, and only truly recognizes his shortcomings after he feels their effects—never before or during—much like a Bill Murray creation would. This is in stark (and welcomed) contrast to the overtly self-aware doofusness of a Will Ferrell character, who tries to charm you by shoving his foibles down your throat. This is key, too, because frankly, we don't need a French-Canadian Will Ferrell.
With his lead character at full strength, writer/director Ken Scott (Delivery Man) can showcase his own talent and cleverness as a storyteller.
When David learns of his unexpected brood and the lawsuit against the clinic, he is given a file profiling each of his children, but he is reluctant to put faces to his problem. His curiosity eventually consumes him, but he can't quite bear the burden of knowing them all at one time, so he selects one at random. It's a wonderful and serendipitous choice (no spoilers here) and David revels in the joy he feels of witnessing his child's success when he does a little covert recon. It changes him. With a child of his own on the way (you know what I mean), he wants to change. So to learn how to love a child, he makes more random selections from the file, which leads to David's increased involvement in the lives of these strangers whom he helped bear.
He becomes a guardian angel to some, a confidant to others, and in the film's most touching relationship, he becomes something he never thought he could be. And through it all, you believe it—you believe he wants to change, but only how he behaves, not who he is. His father (Igor Ovadis, Truffe) says it best when David confesses to him to being Starbuck and asks his dad what a normal person would do. "A normal person wouldn't be in this situation. You're probably one of the few people who can cope in a situation as screwed up as this one."
He's still the charming doofus; he's just becoming a responsible charming doofus.
As it should, this comedy follows the standard three-act structure, but it never feels tired thanks to Huard and Scott. If it misses anywhere, it's in how quickly it wraps up, as well has how it misses a chance to do a better commentary on how judgmental society and the media can be.
The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen image is fine, as is the Dolby 5.1 Surround track in French with English subtitles. With the exception of some outdoor scenery at a picnic and one particular song sung by one of David's children, there was never a point while watching the DVD that I wished the image and sound had been better. However, the David Giguere music video for "L'Atleier" that is part of the extras could have used the Blu rinse to improve the sight and sound.
Other extras are interestingly presented. The bloopers are a nice mix of outtakes and highlights from the film, and set to a pair of songs so as not to feel rote. The deleted scenes are instead a combination of deleted and extended scenes. Nothing the filmmakers left on the cutting room floor was missed in the final cut.
There are also two mediocre interviews: one with star Huard and the other with director Scott. Both are typical junket takes, with each of the men sitting in front of a giant movie poster, answering the usual softball questions posed by an offscreen interviewer. There are two interesting points of note, though. First, Scott claims there are true stories similar to this one, where men have been found to have fathered hundreds of children via sperm donation. Who knew? And in another interesting Scott interview moment, he seemed less than comfortable discussing the Starbuck remake (entitled Delivery Man) he is filming, starring Vince Vaughn.
I shudder to think what the Vaughn remake will be like in comparison to this, even with Scott at the helm. Vaughn has yet to show that he has it in him to be closer to Bill Murray than Will Ferrell. This makes me glad I saw the original first. I had expectations for this film, but I certainly didn't see this coming. C'est magnifique!
With all those mouths to feed, there's not a chance I'm sending this dad to
the gallows. Not guilty in TWO langauges!
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