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The mere thought of creating and caring for a child is enough to cripple a sane man with overwhelming fear and anxiety. Now imagine that feeling multiplied by 533 and raised to the power of 142. Starbuck is a Canadian (Quebec-made) movie about perennial fuck-up David Wozniak who donated sperm under the alias “Starbuck” in the late 80’s and said seed was mistakenly used to father 533 children.

To make matters worse, 142 of the 533 (now grown-up) children have filed a class action lawsuit to compel the fertility clinic to reveal the identity of Starbuck. Oh, and David learns that his girlfriend is pregnant with his child so make that a tally of 534 different versions of yourself running around.

Although it may not sound like it, the story of Starbuck is at times heartwarming, heartbreaking, and hysterical. Don’t let the fact that this is a foreign film with subtitles prevent you from watching this movie. And definitely avoid the American remake coming later this year.

Patrick Huard plays the hapless schlub of David Wozniak perfectly with an impressive balance of comedic delivery and dramatic chops. Unfortunately, Vince Vaughn is playing David Wozniak in the American remake titled Delivery Man. Personally, I think Delivery Man is destined to fail due simply to that ill-fated casting decision. That’s just going to be something so difficult to overcome.

Vince Vaughn quit acting years ago. In fact, he may already be dead. At least that’s what I took away from the trailer for The Internship.

Starbuck certainly would not be the same movie without Patrick Huard’s performance as the lead. Because of Huard, Starbuck has a heart. In the first 15 minutes of the film, the story is set up superbly and succinctly with Huard going through a gamut of emotions—running for his life inside his apartment from thugs looking to collect his $80,000 gambling debt, going from bank to bank trying to (unsuccessfully) secure a loan for the money he so desperately needs, learning that his girlfriend is pregnant with his child, and then being confronted with the news that he’s also the sperm donor to 533 children.

 

In an effort to protect his identity, David (played by Patrick Huard) consults with his friend/lawyer Avocat (played by Antoine Bertrand) on how to keep the records sealed. Avocat provides David with an envelope containing the profiles of each of his 142 children that are suing to find out the identity of their father.

And that is when the real fun begins.

What would you do in David’s position? Would you be tempted to look? You could not stop me from ripping open that envelope. I don’t think anyone could control their curiosity even if they wanted.

David couldn’t control himself either as he has to look at just one profile. At random, David selects a son who is a young soccer star—football, since this is a foreign flick. For now, Starbuck keeps his distance and watches from afar. But that doesn’t last long as David selects another profile and begins his meddling.

Through seemingly random acts of kindness, David starts infiltrating the lives of his grown-up children to help them in any way he can while still protecting his true self. I have a hard time imagining a Hollywood studio creating and supporting the same tone in the American version that is accomplished in Starbuck. Clearly, the foreign film isn’t afraid to drastically change moods and completely ignore any responsibility to keep the laughs coming.

I give credit to Starbuck for that and appreciate its chutzpah.

It would be easy to make this into a schmaltzy movie with cheap laughs, and Delivery Man may very well do that later this year. But Starbuck takes a genuine, authentic glimpse at an absolutely absurd situation in an effort to find a hint of something more meaningful.

Spoilers galore.

Nearly 45 minutes into Starbuck, the movie takes a complete left turn. David selects another profile at random and his face turns from pure enthusiasm to profound sadness as he learns that he has a son (Raphael) who is severely disabled and lives in an institution. Although it’s difficult, David forces himself to visit Raphael despite the fact that he’s deathly afraid and unsure of what he should do or how he can interact with his son.

It is a truly touching moment in a movie that doesn’t seem like it should delve that deep.

While Ken Scott is still the writer/director of Delivery Man, I don’t know how the American version will be able to pull of this type of twist with Vince Vaughn. And this is a necessary development in the story as it provides immense perspective for the character of David in his attempt to turn his life around and stop fucking up. David talks to Raphael—as much as he can, anyway. He pushes his wheelchair for a walk outside. And he feeds his son since he is incapable of doing it himself. For a depressing stretch of silent minutes, there are no laughs or chuckles to be had, but it may still put a smile on your face because it is a showing of humanity.

After stalking another of his children from a distance, David finds himself in a conference room full of his 142 children that are suing to discover the identity of Starbuck. David (under the guise that he’s the adoptive father of Raphael) speaks to the gathering and tells them that he loves them—encouraging his children and motivating them to find comradery together as brothers and sisters.

Starbuck

Just as David is contemplating coming clean to reveal his true self as Starbuck, everything falls to shit for the lovable loser. The thugs that are trying to muscle David to get him to pay his debt show up at his father’s house while the media breaks the story of Starbuck so the entire public is passing judgment on this pervert unbeknownst that Starbuck is David Wozniak. As a result, David feels he has no choice but to levy a lawsuit against the sperm bank for damages, which he actually wins to the tune of $200,000.

David regrets the decision since the successful lawsuit means he must maintain his hidden identity as Starbuck, but he spills the secret to his father who agrees to pay his debt in order for David to right his wrongs. Valerie (David’s girlfriend) gives birth to his “real” child as David reveals his true identity.

There was no way that there wouldn’t be an American version of Starbuck. But predictably, the title is changed (presumably to avoid confusion with Starbucks?) to Delivery Man, which is a shame since the name comes from a Canadian Holstein bull whose sperm is used to artificially inseminate thousands. From everything I have seen thus far, Delivery Man seems to primarily be a shot-for-shot remake, which is so unfortunate since Vince Vaughn is no longer capable/interested in this kind of acting.

If you don’t heed my advice and you do end up watching Delivery Man, do not say you weren’t warned. I think the end result will show any potential young screenwriter that it’s not necessarily all in the words or situations that you create. Especially with comedy, it is mostly in the delivery. Expect to see several reviews later this year with some variation of “Delivery Man Fails to Deliver Laughs” or the such.

I would have loved to see John C. Reilly cast as the lead in the American version with Jeff Garlin as his friend/lawyer. I could have even lived with Gerard Butler as David Wozniak. Almost anything seems better than Vince Vaughn at this point. Maybe I’m wrong. I hope I’m wrong.

You don’t have to watch Starbuck—although I highly recommend it. Just please don’t watch Delivery Man.

5 out of 5 stars

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