“Starbuck” writer-director Ken Scott is remaking the French-Canadian hit for American audiences as “The Delivery Man,” with Vince Vaughn in the starring role. The movie comes out on Thanksgiving Day, and although Scott’s hand on the till bodes well, I’ll be surprised if the Hollywood version will be as charming as the original 2011 film, out on DVD this week.
The film deftly balances its comic and feel-good aspirations, making a film that’s surprisingly gentle and warm-hearted for a film that, after all, kicks off with a masturbation montage. David Wozniak (Patrick Huard) primary income in his early 20s seemed to be heading down to a Montreal sperm bank and making donation after donation.
It seems to be his primary achievement in life — when we meet him again at 42, he’s a screw-up who grows pot in his apartment, owes loan sharks big time and works as a delivery driver at his family’s butcher shop, a job he hangs onto by the skin of his nepotism.
But then he finds out all those donations bore fruit — 533 children were born as a result of his donations, all now of college age. And 142 of them want the clinic to void his confidentiality agreement and find out who their biological father really was. Wozniak (who the clinic nicknamed “Starbuck” after a prize Quebec bull) is initially aghast at the thought of having such a large brood. But when he starts looking into the lives of the kids — including a drug addict, an aspiring actor, a subway busker, and others — his essentially decent heart wins out.
Without revealing his identity, he befriends them and acting as a kind of guardian angel. If he can’t turn around his own life, he reasons, he can help out each of these kids a little. Of course, he get sucked more deeply into their lives than he anticipated. In one scene, he accidentally ends up in the middle of a ballroom surrounded by hundreds of his offspring, who have created a kind of support network for each other. It’s a surprisingly moving scene, as Wozniak surveys this strange, gigantic, devoted family that he unwittingly created.
“Starbuck” is well-paced and has some nice supporting roles, including Antoine Bertrand as Wozniak’s long-suffering lawyer. But the film rests entirely on Huard’s shoulders. Huard, a celebrated French-Canadian actor and comic (Wisconsin Film Festival fans will remember him as the “Bon Cop” in “Good Cop, Bon Cop,” which sold out the Orpheum Theater in 2006.) Slightly beefy and grizzled, Huard is in nearly every frame of this movie, convincing as both a man who has made a lot of mistakes but would like to figure out how to stop making more. I’ll be curious to see if Vaughn, who tends to play more aggressive Type-A motormouths, can match his sheepdog charm.
The DVD release of “Starbuck” on eOne Entertainment contains two brief junket interviews with Huard and Scott, a blooper reel, and seven deleted scenes (although the film feels plenty long enough at 110 minutes.)