Starbuck (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner23/11/2012

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 109 mins

Enjoyable, feelgood French-Canadian comedy enlivened by a witty script and a charming central performance from Patrick Huard.

What's it all about?
Directed by Ken Scott, Starbuck stars Patrick Huard as David Wozniak, a 40-something slacker who suddenly discovers that he's the biological father to 533 children (thanks to some enthusiastic visits to the sperm bank in the 1980s) and that 142 of them want to meet him and are filing a class action suit for his identity to be revealed. As if that wasn't bad enough, David's girlfriend Valerie (Julie Le Breton) announces that she's pregnant and there's also the small matter of the loan sharks who keep popping round to violently retrieve the $80,000 he owes them.

After filing a counter-suit with his lawyer friend Paul (Antoine Bertrand) to try and protect his identity (he's known to the children only anonymously, as 'Starbuck'), David becomes curious about his progeny, so he begins tracking them down one by one and helping them out, guardian angel-style. At the same time, he tries to prove to Valerie that he's worthy of being their child's father, while also keeping his 533 other children a secret.

The Good
Patrick Huard is utterly charming as David, his likeable, perpetually hangdog face radiating warmth and openness throughout. There's also strong comic support from Antoine Bertrand (whose character is overrun with several children of his own), though Julie Le Breton is rather underserved by the plot and gets very little screen time as Valerie.

The script (presumably inspired by the same news stories that led to the thematically similar documentary Donor Unknown) is frequently very funny and the sequences involving David following, befriending and helping his various children are nicely handled. Similarly, despite a certain tendency to present everything in a relentlessly positive light (one of his children makes the world's fastest recovery from a heroin addiction, for example), the film largely resists ladling on the syrupy sentimentality, though no doubt the imminent Vince Vaughn remake will redress that balance.

The Bad
It's fair to say that the first half of the film is stronger than the second, while some sub-plots (such as the loan sharks and, to a lesser extent, Valerie's pregnancy) are more or less ignored until their appointed moments; for example, David doesn't make any effort to actually pay off his debts and spends all his time following his children instead. Similarly, it's at least 20 minutes too long and a section involving David's emo son Etienne (Patrick Martin) could probably have been cut altogether.

Worth seeing?
Despite its flaws, Starbuck is an enjoyable feelgood comedy with a terrific central performance from Patrick Huard. It would also make a great double bill with Donor Unknown. Worth seeking out.

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Content updated: 16/10/2017 23:06

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