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Indie Snapshot: Starbuck

by admin March 22, 2013 11:47 am
Indie Snapshot: Starbuck

If it weren't already being remade as a Vince Vaughn star vehicle (look for it this fall under the new, more generic title, The Delivery Man), the French-Canadian comedy Starbuck could have easily been retrofitted into a TV sitcom. Just take a gander at the premise: in his youth, fortysomething slacker-with-a-heart-of-gold David Wozniak (Patrick Huard, one of French-speaking Canada's biggest comedy stars, which is akin to being the biggest stand-up act in Des Moines) made frequent and copious donations to his local sperm bank under the alias "Starbuck." Just as he's weighing whether or not to settle down his girlfriend, who is carrying their child, he's informed that his vintage seed was exceptionally popular amongst the bank's clientele and he's now the father of over 500 grown children, a significant chunk of whom now want to meet him. Not wanting to openly admit his parentage (both due to the humiliation factor and the fact that he owes money to some thugs), he pays one-on-one visits to some of his offspring and -- without revealing his true identity -- helps them out of various jams. It's like My Name is Earl crossed with Guys With Kids! Coming this fall to NBC.

Actually, that potential sitcom pitch would only apply to the first half of this overlong, though not entirely unpleasant feature as, midway through, Starbuck shifts away from the baby-daddy-helping-his-babies thing to a more collective comedy with David going undercover in the hundred-strong community of his children, who are suing to learn their biological father's identity never realizing he's walking amongst them. (Come to think of it, that could be the basis for an entirely different comedy series: Bosom Buddies meets Kevin Hill.) Through these interactions, David evolves from an irresponsible layabout into a mature soul who is actually capable of fatherhood. It's that predictable transformation that undoubtedly sold Vaughn on remaking this movie, as he can start out by indulging his inner Wedding Crashers slob and then grow into his Break-Up self.

Interestingly, the Americanized Starbuck is being helmed by the director behind the original movie, Ken Scott, and while that often doesn't end well (see the English-language versions of The Vanishing and Nightwatch), in this case there's plenty of room for improvement. While Huard is an appealing performer and there are some amusing encounters between David and his various kids, the pace of the storytelling and the comedy is too languid and pokey. Scott is also more than happy to indulge in shameless sentimentality, most notably in a storyline that finds David visiting one of his less fortunate children -- a mentally handicapped young man who resides in an institution. (Here's hoping that Vaughn talks the director out of keeping this exploitative subplot in the remake.) In general, it's advisable for moviegoers to seek out the original before seeing the copy. But if you decide to skip Starbuck and just wait for The Delivery Man, you honestly won't be missing much.

Get showtimes and tickets for this movie from Fandango.

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