Movie Review: ‘Starbuck’

Jerk off at the movies: “Starbuck” scrounges up sentiment between masturbation jokes.

Joseph Kleinschmidt

“Starbuck”

Where: Landmark Edina

Rated: R

Directed by: Ken Scott

Starring: Patrick Huard, Julie LeBreton, Antoine Bertrand

Opens: Friday

 

The opening scene of “Starbuck” finds its hero furiously masturbating, trying to produce enough sperm to fill a plastic vial. He flips through several pornographic magazines until he finally grunts, just one of David Wozniak’s (Patrick Huard) 533 sperm donations.

Cut to Wozniak, now a middle-aged single slacker, as he receives notice that 142 of his progeny want to know the identity of their father. With a class action lawsuit, the masturbating hero must ward off the collective’s queries in trial or face public embarrassment.

The 2011 Quebec-made comedy-drama relies so much on the audience’s connection to its principle character that the outlandish premise soon falls apart. “Starbuck” starts with Wozniak choking the chicken to comically reveal his laziness and set up a familiar male archetype. He’s a meat delivery driver and a true slacker, the kind of guy at home among Judd Apatow’s band of chums.

After such a crudely original premise, “Starbuck” becomes drenched in sentimentality. A pudgy Wozniak sets out on a quest to track down several of his children anonymously while trying to prove to his girlfriend that he can rear her newborn.

As entertaining as Wozniak’s crusade becomes, “Starbuck” insists on reassuring the viewer of its main character’s heroic ideal. Within the string of 20-something children he randomly selects from his class action file, Wozniak saves a daughter from a heroin overdose and helps a son land an acting gig.

Wozniak realizes he cannot possibly connect with each of his 142 children at this moment. The movie seems to make the same realization midway through when the children of “Starbuck” act more as a faceless multitude. The jokes land less after this as “Starbuck” strives to yield a clean ending.

Even though “Starbuck” strives for a schmaltzy wrap-up, Quebec’s highest-grossing movie of 2011 also scores laughs thanks to Huard’s banter with his character’s friend and attorney, played by Antoine Bertrand. The comedy pairing makes up for most of the standard rom-com happening in the foreground of the movie.

Wozniak’s alias and the movie’s title come from a Canadian bull that produced hundreds of thousands of progeny in the 1980s and 1990s thanks to artificial insemination. “Starbuck” the movie shares a similar trait — Vince Vaughn will star as the male lead for this year’s American remake.

“Starbuck” blows its load with the amount of faith required to accept the fact that 142 kids immediately accept their dad. The male-in-arrested-development character might be fertile ground for comedy movies these days, but “Starbuck” can’t get by with an easy ending as unsatisfying as one of Wozniak’s hasty orgasms.

 

Two-and-a-half out of four stars.