By Laurie Coker
Before the theatre went dark for the screening of Starbuck, someone told me that Vince Vaughn just wrapped up the American version of the French-Canadian film about a man who donated sperm multiple times in his youth and who discovers that of the 560 plus children conceived, nearly 150 are asking to meet their biological father. As I watched this fun and engaging, socially pertinent and at times truly heartfelt and funny film, I could never wrap my head around Vaughn playing the lead. Director and co-writer Ken Scott film plays out as part comedy and part social commentary, with a sprinkling of seriousness, making it a pleasing romp – one made all the better by its lead actor Patrick Huard.
Huard plays David, and the titular Starbuck, the name under which he made is “donations,” and the name on the tongues of all his offspring. As can often happen with adoption, his now grown kids want to meet the man that essentially made their lives possible. When Starbuck discovers that over one hundred and forty of these adults are actively trying to find his identity, he gathers their information and secretly does something to touch and make better their lives. Through a series of events and little sneaking around, he grows to know his “children,” meanwhile; his own life is a mess. He works as a driver for the family meat business, where he messes up constantly, he owes a huge amount of money to loan sharks and he finds out his on and off again girlfriend is pregnant.
Rich characters and underlying messages about parenting, privacy and relationships abound making the film relevant and inspiring and thankfully, wholly entertaining. It is comedy, but Scott’s themes are serious too. He mixes ample humor and farce with earnestness and his pacing plays out nearly perfectly, except he wanders a bit too long and includes an unnecessary subplot where one of David’s progenies, an odd, Goth young man, learns his secret and basically seeks shelter (in David’s home) for his silence. Huard makes this film better even than the story itself warrants and because of his natural comic timing, much accomplished merely with facial expressions, and we stay invested in his life and the story, which is really little more than a sitcom played out over nearly an hour and forty-five minutes.
I enjoyed Starbuck and give it a B+. Scott directs the American version (entitled Deliver Man) with Vaughn playing the David character, and I fear that Vaughn will do what he does – nearly endless chattering which works in some films, but I think will cost Scott the heart of his film. Vaughn often annoys with his improvisation and nattering, and Starbuck works mostly because of Huard’s talent for facial and not verbal expression. I will see Vaughn’s film and I hope he proves me wrong. Rated R for adult situation, language and a bit of violence, Starbuck is trivial and innocuous, but it is amusing and fun and that’s worth the price of a ticket.