It is fun to root for lovable losers which is probably why they have been showing up in movies since the time of Charlie Chaplin.
If the loser is charming enough, you’ll find yourself pulling for him even if he is a French-Canadian trapped in a ridiculously high-concept comedy. That’s about as high as you can possibly set the bar.
“Starbuck” stars Patrick Huard as David Wozniak, an aimless 40-something so incompetent he can barely hold on to a job delivering meat for his father’s butcher shop.
With fatherhood being the main theme of this movie, David is forced to reevaluate his life and priorities when his girlfriend Valerie (Julie LeBreton) becomes pregnant.
But that shock is a relatively minor one compared to the other bit of news David receives. It turns that he frequently donated to a sperm bank some 20 years earlier under the alias of “Starbuck.” His donations were so frequent, in fact, that he wound up fathering hundreds of children.
Now all young adults, 142 of David’s offspring file a class-action lawsuit to learn the identity of their biological father.
The story quickly becomes international news. To shield his identity and avoid public humiliation, David enlists the legal help of his friend, Avocat (scene-stealer Antoine Bertrand), who is about as effective as an attorney as David is at life.
At first, David doesn’t want to know anything about his sons and daughters, but curiosity gets the best of him and he decides to anonymously look one of them up.
That son turns out to be a professional soccer player and David realizes he can’t resist digging deeper, so he seeks them all out and spends a goodly part of the movie dropping in on their lives like a guardian angel providing whatever assistance or encouragement he can muster; all without ever revealing who he actually is.
This is all silly stuff and you don’t have to squint very hard to envision an Americanized “Starbuck” with Adam Sandler running around mentoring an army of mentally deficient offspring while occasionally being hit in the groin.
But “Starbuck” rises above the overwhelming ridiculousness of its plot thanks to two big reasons.
The first is Huard, who hardly ever overplays his sad-sack character. He seems more weary than zany, and he keeps the movie anchored to some semblance of reality, which is high praise when you consider the whole 500 kids thing.
Huard also bears a striking resemblance to Dave Coulier of “Full House” to the point I kept expecting the Olsen twins to show up as his ill-fated American offspring.
The other reason “Starbuck” succeeds as a movie is that it goes more for the heart than for the big laughs. David’s inherent sweetness and likeability trumps all else and shines through in the makeshift family bonds formed by the scores of half-brothers and half-sisters.
In the end, “Starbuck” is a preposterous movie. But just like its main character, it is loveable enough and funny enough to make you smile and happily forgive its shortcomings, even if those shortcomings number in the hundreds.
“Starbuck” is rated R for sexual content, language, and some drug material.