Does a formulaic American film automatically improve when it is shot in another language? There is proof out there of this: mediocre films made in America that make it big in other countries – reimagined or not.
The Quebecois film Starbuck seems to be just that – an American film stuck in the body, if you will, of a French-Canadian film. But strangely enough, Starbuck is not originally an American film – although the premise, humor, and acting all suggest so.
Starbuck, directed by Ken Scott, tells the rather improbable tale of David (Patrick Huard), a dead-beat loser living with his Polish immigrant family in Montreal, Canada. As the film progresses, the audience discovers that in the late 80s and 90s, David donated sperm to a fertility clinic over 600 times (raking in $80,000), and has consequently fathered 533 children, 142 of which are filing a class action lawsuit to uncover the identity of their father, which the fertility clinic dubbed “Starbuck” – their “most successful donor.” In an effort to take some responsibility and improve his life, David goes on a quest to help each of the 142 children in any way he can (cue the montage.) Add the fact that David’s long-suffering ex (Julie Le Breton) is pregnant and demands him to take responsibility as well, and you have one heck of a mess on your hands.
It’s not that Starbuck isn’t good – there were plenty of times when I laughed and was touched at a few genuinely poignant moments. But without Huard, the film would be lost. He brings an interesting comedic element to the character of David, but also humility and tenderness. Perhaps the best part of the film is when the audience discovers just what David used the money he acquired from his sperm donations for. That being said, the rest of the film was flimsy, and more than slightly unbelievable. If this had been an American film, I wouldn’t have even given it a second glance. Fortunately enough for Starbuck though, the Montreal setting and Quebecois actors make it more compelling than it seems.
Interestingly enough, a remake is being planned by director Ken Scott and starring Vince Vaughan in the role of David, retitled The Delivery Man. Who knows if perhaps the American version will spruce up and beat the kinks out of the original Starbuck – I sure hope so.
Ultimately, don’t spend your time with this film in the theatre. Starbuck is light-hearted enough to enjoy for a comedy night at home – just don’t expect any grand revelations.