If "Starbuck," the opening night selection of the Milwaukee Film Festival, is a sign of things to come in the next two weeks, movie fans can look forward to a lot of great cinema. The French-Canadian comedy, scheduled for release next March, takes a fairly bawdy story and makes it not only hilarious but effortlessly charming and surprisingly touching.
The film follows David Wozniak (Patrick Huard), a typically irresponsible slacker whose only skills include collecting parking tickets, debts and disappointed stares from his father, who doubles as his boss at a butcher shop. Despite his lackadaisical schemes – including a failed attempt to create a pot garden – and his irreverent lawyer's warnings, David would love to have kids.
But as one trite saying goes, be careful what you wish for. David discovers that, thanks to some anonymous sperm donations decades ago, he's not only the father of one child but 533 children, and 142 of them are filing a class action lawsuit to uncover his identity. While he's hesitant at first to get involved with his massive brood, much less reveal his embarrassing secret, he starts to warm up to some of the struggling young adults and begins acting as their bumbling guardian angel.
It's a loosely told story that works both for and against "Starbuck." On one hand, the lax storytelling creates an easy-going and comfortable vibe that fits co-writer/director Ken Scott's film. At the same time, it creates a few problems for the movie. The screenplay offers several jarringly dark turns – one involves drug abuse – and some of its subplots, like David's cute romance with his pregnant girlfriend, while still charming, don't get a ton of screen time to develop.
Luckily, the movie has a great performance at its heart from Huard. As "Starbuck" starts, his character seems like a prototyipcal lazy manchild that we've seen time and again in comedies, especially those with the Judd Apatow stamp of approval. Huard, however, aces the deadpan humor as well as the little nuances that make David and his dramas feel sincere, sweet and wholly original.
The whole film, in fact, finds that balance between its crude concept and its big, earnest heart. Even when "Starbuck" indulges in a surprisingly dark twist, Huard and Scott's direction find a way to make it somehow satisfying. When David finds out one of his 142 children is disabled, for instance, it could've ended in utter cinematic disaster. After all, this is a movie that starts with Huard masturbating into a cup, so taking on serious topics seems like a reach. However, it ends up being a surprisingly poignant sequence that doesn't weigh down the rest of the comedy as well.
Thanks to the impressive reviews and reactions coming out of film festivals, "Starbuck" has already been pegged for an American remake. On the good side, Scott is returning to write and direct. On the awful side, Vince Vaughn has been cast in the lead. I doubt Vaughn's often grating fast-talking everyman routine will make the lead character more endearing. Plus, most of the serious and emotional content of "Starbuck" will probably be Hollywood-ized into something far more accessible – and bland.
Of course, this is all speculation, and with Scott back behind the camera, the remake might be able to maintain some of its predecessor's wit. That being said, I'd still hunt down the original "Starbuck" before its charm and humor risk getting lost in translation.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Matt Mueller
Published Dec. 21, 2014
The bad news for "Wild": Director Jean-Marc Vallée, at least three films into his career this side of the Canadian border, specializes in making Oscar bait. No, wait; don't run away quite yet, because the flip side is that Vallée has mastered the art of making Oscar bait that doesn't feel like it. And now he's pulling off the same trick with "Wild."
Published Dec. 20, 2014
With its brand of rock music uncoils, cracks and unleashes in sharp, aggressive, raw fashion with a swift dash of sex appeal, Whips is an remarkably appropriate name for the Milwaukee-based rock foursome. And now the quartet has a new LP, "Turn It On," arriving Saturday night at a record release show at the Cactus Club.
Published Dec. 19, 2014
"The Interview" was canceled this past week amongst hack attacks and terrorist threats. It doesn't matter that this happened to THIS particular movie. What matters is what this means for ALL movies. And what this moment represents is a terrible precedent for the future of film and art altogether.
Published Dec. 17, 2014
When I arrived to interview Harlem Globetrotter Sweet J Ekworomadu - the 12th female player in the team's 89-year history - in advance of their traditional New Year's Eve game at the BC, I was asked if I wanted to play a game of horse with Sweet J. Considering I hadn't shot a basketball since probably middle school, I couldn't turn down the opportunity fast enough. I was, however, able to ask some one-on-one questions with Ekworomadu.
Published Dec. 16, 2014
The story behind "It's a Wonderful Life" is now almost as well-known as the story of George Bailey himself. The movie performed below expectations back in 1946, but several decades later, as the movie made its way into the public domain, "It's a Wonderful Life" grew into a holiday classic. Now there's many renditions of the story, including a staged radio show version - complete with old school sound effects - coming to the Marcus Center.
Published Dec. 15, 2014
Fans have been routinely left waiting for a Chris Rock movie that truly plays up to the standard of Chris Rock. Luckily, the wait is over with the arrival of "Top Five," a loose-limbed comedy about celebrity that feels like a movie worthy of its star - in both its voice and its significant supply of laughs.
Published Dec. 12, 2014
2014 is coming to a close, which means it's time to put my first full calendar year as an official working, adult member of society in the books (well, jury's still out on the adult part). Here are some of the most memorable moments - both good and bad - from a most memorable year.
Published Dec. 10, 2014
Luckily, what's currently housed and featured at the Racine Art Museum is just as interesting and compelling as the building itself: an expansive two-part exhibition called "in(Organic)," a compilation of art works that combine the natural and unnatural - in terms of thematic meaning and artistic medium - in ways both beautiful and often unnerving.
Published Dec. 9, 2014
What doesn't kill you supposedly makes you stronger. In the case of the sneakily incisive new Swedish dark comedy "Force Majeure," however, what doesn't kill you reveals your deepest faults to all of your loved ones. And they are not impressed.
Published Dec. 8, 2014
2014 was the year of the selfie. In the beginning of the year, there was the great Oscars selfie, a photo that literally broke Twitter for a few seconds. The word existed before, but after that, suddenly news stations and outlets were attempting to cram it into every headline (similar to "twerk" in 2013) and everybody was getting on board with the word. A part of that selfie insanity was the irony-drenched EDM hit "#Selfie" from The Chainsmokers.