Like his namesake, a legendary Holstein bull who is said to have sired some 200,000 calves over his lifetime, the title character of “Starbuck” is also a prodigiously fertile stud.
Thanks to an unscrupulous sperm bank — which over a period of two years ended up giving out one pseudonymous donor’s nearly daily deposits to all its female clients — David Wozniak (a.k.a. Starbuck) wakes up 20 years later to discover that he’s managed to produce a seemingly miraculous 533 offspring. That news gets delivered to David (Patrick Huard) by a lawyer for the children, 142 of whom have banded together to file a class action suit, demanding to know the identity of their biological father.
If you can’t wait for the English-language version of this genially air-headed French Canadian farce (due out later this year, and starring Vince Vaughn), Quebecois writer-director Ken Scott’s original has charm to burn, thanks mainly to Huard, who brings a sweet affability and groundedness to what is admittedly a far-fetched tale. Almost immediately upon receiving an envelope containing the identities of his progeny, David — who until then has been an irresponsible manchild — begins surreptitiously tracking them down. One by one, he begins bestowing a belated parental influence on them that appears to be almost as magical as his sperm’s motility rate.
David lends one son, an aspiring actor (Patrick Martin), his truck so that he can make an audition, thereby transforming his life. David also steps in to rescue his junkie daughter (Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse) from an overdose. Other kids’ lives are similarly impacted, profoundly if anonymously, by the sudden appearance of this beneficent stranger.
“Starbuck” makes fatherhood seem easy — which I suppose it is, assuming you let someone else handle the first two decades of your child’s upbringing.
But what really sells the movie isn’t the way that David changes his kids’ lives. As his lawyer (Antoine Bertrand) works quietly in the background to protect David’s identity, David himself is transformed by the sudden announcement that his girlfriend (Julie LeBreton) is also pregnant. After a lifetime as a commitmentphobic loser, David comes to realize that parenting actually begins before your child is born, and not after the kid has graduated from college.
It’s silly and a bit sappy, but it works, in a crowd-pleasing way. “Starbuck” is a more entertaining version of the sentiment embodied in the PSA-style slogan, “any boy can make a baby, but it takes a real man to be a dad.”
R. At area theaters. Contains obscenity, nudity, illegal drugs and sexual content. In French with English subtitles. 108 minutes.