The best that can be said of Starbuck, a 2011 Quebecois box-office sensation that’s finally made its way south, is that it’s the Citizen Kane of sperm-donor comedies. By showing up and not embarrassing itself too much, the film far exceeds the standards established by the likes of the Shelley Long/Corbin Bernsen team-up Frozen Assets and 2012’s dire sperm-heist comedy The Babymakers. Some of the jokes overlap—snickering business about masturbation, the number of deposits, and how the withdrawals are handled—but Starbuck eventually gets past the expected low comedy and cruises into an equally expected, but more dignified story about a serial screw-up who learns the value of being a good father. The inevitable Hollywood remake is already in the works for later this year.
A picture of scruffy likeability, Patrick Huard plays the black sheep of the family, logging time as the unreliable delivery guy for his father’s butcher shop while carrying $80,000 in debt to local thugs. Many years earlier, in an effort to close another financial gap, Huard made hundreds of donations to a fertility clinic under the nickname “Starbuck.” A representative of the clinic informs him that his sperm resulted in 533 children, and that 142 of them have joined together in a lawsuit to invalidate the confidentiality agreement and reveal “Starbuck’s” true identity. In the meantime, he discovers his on-again/off-again girlfriend (Julie LeBreton) is pregnant, and he sifts through a file containing the names of all 142 plaintiffs he sired.
For a stretch, Starbuck becomes an appealing fantasy in which Huard anonymously observes his grown children and sometimes plays Amélie, intervening mysteriously on their behalf. But before long, Huard’s overgrown adolescent has to give up on being a selfish, ill-kempt slob and embrace the fatherhood his powerful sperm has foisted on him. Huard is a winning goof, and co-writer/director Ken Scott knows how to deliver the crowd-pleasing beats, but those beats are so agonizingly familiar that the film virtually writes itself in the second half. There’s only one way a story like this can go.