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 Aug. 2, 2015
Jake Gyllenhaal's impressive physical transformation from scrawny media parasite in "Nightcrawler" to pro boxer in "Southpaw" has snagged most of the movie's pre-release hubbub - partly because, well, there's not all that much to say about the cliche-ridden, predictable film housing that handsome new physique.
Published Aug. 1, 2015
Like a real-life version of the 2010 Greek film "Dogtooth," six boys and their little sister weren't allowed to leave their drab New York City apartment for almost all of their young lives thanks to their parents' rules. First-time director Crystal Moselle certainly stumbles onto a fascinating story for her doc "The Wolfpack," and she doesn't waste it either, absorbing the viewer into a bizarre and often unsettling psychological experiment playing out right in reality.
Published July 24, 2015
At first glance, Ellington Ratliff may seem like the odd man in the pop rock band R5. He's the only one who's not a member of the Lynch family. He's the only one with a first name that doesn't begin with R (Riker, Rocky, Ross and Rydel make up the rest), and he's the only bandmate not born and raised in Colorado. Instead, Ratliff was born out in Los Angeles and split time in Wisconsin, making the band's Riverside gig Friday night a return of sorts.
Published July 23, 2015
If the last two days have proven anything, it's that Milwaukee will freaking lose their mind over the mere idea of a lion. At least, local movie fans Stephen Milek and Christopher Kai House certainly hope that is the case, as the two film buffs attempt to bring the notoriously insane 1981 thriller/borderline snuff film "Roar" to town.
Published July 22, 2015
Bookended by AJ Bombers and Water Street Brewery, Water Street is famous for three Bs: bars, burgers and bros. The tightly packed combination of those things has made the area a popular nighttime hot spot. Yet amongst all of the bars and clubs is something unexpected: A. Werner Silversmith, a buried treasure - quite literally considering its glass cases and shelves containing shimmering, beautifully repaired silver pieces - hiding in plain sight.
Published July 20, 2015
Brooklyn-based indie band Lazyeyes guitarist and singer Jason Abrishami has never been to Milwaukee - let alone any part of the Midwest really. He admits he hasn't even heard that much about the Cream City, but he'll learn about the city firsthand Wednesday night when the band and its shoegaze-laced dream rock makes its maiden trip to the city via a gig at The Mad Planet.
Published July 19, 2015
Tarsem Singh is a man who spent about four years and much of his own money traveling the globe's most outrageously beautiful locales in order to make his magnum opus "The Fall." So how'd he end up standing behind the camera of "Self/Less," an utterly anonymous and impact-free immortality action-thriller that - much like the fresh if not quite new bodies being peddled in the film - seems "alive only in the most basic sense"?
Published July 18, 2015
What if? It's two simple words, not even adding up 10 letters, but that seemingly innocent question has likely haunted every single person that's walked this planet at some point or another. And it's a question that fascinates Milwaukee native Cynthia Swanson, so much so that she made that idea the cornerstone for her debut novel, "The Bookseller."
Published July 17, 2015
Every band has at least a small group of devoted fans cheering it on and supporting it on its way to the spotlight. The retro "nu-wop" family band The Bronx Wanderers, coming to Festa Italiana this weekend, is no different - except some of those devoted fans just happen to be entertainment icons from their hometown neighborhood, including Dion DiMucci, Tony Orlando and Oscar-nominated actors Chazz Palminteri and Danny Aiello.
Published July 15, 2015
When Festa Italiana starts up this Friday at Henry Maier Festival Park, many will flock down to the lakefront to gulp down some real authentic Italian food and wine. Yet some of the most revered tastes of Italian culture coming to town this weekend are wholly inedible: the lovingly crafted and almost identical replicas of the country's most famous sites - this year including a 50-foot duplicate of the iconic Trevi Fountain.