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2011 | 109 min | R | 2.39:1



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Theatrical release date

 22 March, 2013
 23 November, 2012

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Starbuck Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, March 28, 2013

The premise of “Starbuck” (A French-Canadian production) promises a wacky time at the movies, dealing with accidental fatherhood, delayed adolescence, and persistent loserdom. Perhaps other filmmakers would’ve leaned into the potential of the tale, but co-writer/director Ken Scott is hunting for something more meaningful with this tender blend of mischief and maturation. A few laughs are offered during the feature, yet “Starbuck” aims for more thoughtful storytelling, doing whatever he can to separate expectations of slapstick from the effort’s gradual influx of concern, eventually forming a warm, sugary feel of humanity that’s a more inviting viewing experience than the exterior of the picture promises.

In 1988, under the name “Starbuck,” Daniel (Patrick Huard) donated an enormous amount of sperm to a fertility clinic to make extra cash. In 2011, Daniel is still in need of money, threatened with violence by loan sharks, while girlfriend Valerie (Julia LeBreton) is expecting a baby, providing additional complication to a disappointing life of suspect behavior and a general disinterest in responsibility. While a fixture of his family’s meat packing company, Daniel is stuck, doomed to fail once again. To make matters worse, David is hit with the possibility of his identity being revealed to the 533 children he fathered during the donation process, a group of twentysomethings desperate to learn about the mystery man. Handed sketchy legal advice to lay low by his best pal (Antoine Bertrand), David decides to meet a few of his “kids,” only to find the rudderless men and women in various states of disrepair. Looking to better himself and prove his worth to Valerie, the donator works in secret to improve these lives, coming through as a father figure they’ve always wanted, but don’t understand they’re receiving.

“Starbuck” begins with familiar sights. David is a man struggling with the demands of adulthood, clad in graphic tees and track wear, disappointing those who rely on him for basic services, including his family, left without uniforms for picture day at their soccer league gathering. His longstanding carelessness has finally caught up with him, resulting in massive debt and future fatherhood, leaving David to stew in his poisonous situation while thugs apply outside pressure. And then a question of paternity arrives involving over 500 needy adults, a conceit that nudges “Starbuck” to the brink of contrived entertainment. It’s a relief to find Scott (with co-writer Martin Petit) taking the material with a degree of seriousness, looking to build David into a man with sophisticated feelings and a need to redeem himself in the eyes of others, watching his curiosity with his instant brood blossom into do-goodery that feeds his soul.

The movie comes alive once David begins his undercover quest to meet a few of his children (a group preparing to sue Starbuck to reveal his identity), interacting with a struggling actor, a junkie, a subway musician, and a physically disabled man, donating all his time to help the gang with their challenges. David becomes part of the family, enriching his own life as well. Scott goes overboard with music montages, but he sustains a full sense of personality with the children, though “Starbuck” only scratches the surface in terms of profound difficulties facing a few of the kids. Huard’s performance is vulnerable and communicative with life-changing turns, keeping David from becoming just another one-dimensional goof who’s fallen into a wacky predicament, sustaining the picture’s meaningfulness as it inspects the character’s newfound sense of worth. The lead actor also carries a great deal of the comedy, making sure “Starbuck” has an accessible funny bone to go along with its engorged heart.

Because the global marketplace doesn’t care for subtitles, Scott is returning to the material this fall in “The Delivery Man,” a remake starring Vince Vaughn. Considering how saccharine “Starbuck” grows in its overlong third act (with legal and hospital events striking David at the same time), the transition to a Hollywood release shouldn’t be all that disorientating, observing the filmmakers already in a sentimental mood by the end of this unexpectedly emotive feature.

Starring: Patrick Huard, Julie LeBreton, Antoine Bertrand
Director: Ken Scott

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