By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
Remaking successful foreign comedies has long been the rage in Hollywood, with examples ranging from Three Men and a Boy to The Birdcage all the way down to Taxi and Dinner for Schmucks. A little know fact: even Grown Ups is a remake of the French classic Les Moneygrabbeurs.
Or maybe it was the Norwegian movie, Dumfukken
From that list, you can see that the record for this gambit is far from encouraging, but Hollywood keeps on at it. The newest on the woodpile is the upcoming Vince Vaughn-starring Starbuck, and for once I decided to give the original a look first.
Starbuck is the code name if you will for David Wozniak (Patrick Huard), an amiable fuckup who can’t seem to get anything right… except extreme fertility. You see, he once went on a donation streak at the local sperm bank in one of his habitual bids to make ends meet, and an administrative screw-up led to his seed being handed out willy-nilly… yielding 533 children. He finds out about this just after receiving the news he’ll be a more conventional type of dad with his long-suffering girlfriend, and when it turns out that 142 of his donation babies file a class-action lawsuit to find out who he his, his life takes a sharp turn.
Huard as David is asked to carry the film, and he exudes likability and genuine kind-heartedness along with well-meaning incompetence… precisely the qualities that make this story work, and ones I have a tough time seeing Vince Vaughn pulling off.
“Fast-talking dbag” isn’t quite the same
The first act of the film is as good as any I’ve seen this year, hands-down on the comedy front. David’s response to this situation is your normal apprehension and fear of responsibility, but when he succumbs to the temptation of reading on of the profiles that his kids include in their suit, he becomes obsessed with tracking them down one by one and seeing what they’re up to, lending a helping hand when he can, anonymously, of course. I was going to make a Touched By an Angel joke, but the movie pretty much did it for me.
i.e. The Wade Robson Story… okay, I’m done
This gives the film some real heart, and exposes David to just about any parenting eventuality he’s likely to face. More importantly, though, it sets up plenty of comedy, and this film delivers on those laughs quite well.
The last toast-worthy aspect of the film is how well-shot it is. Director Ken Scott, who’ll also be handling the remake, brings a Wes Anderson-lite approach to both his visuals and music selection, as well as a deft touch with his montages. It’s a nice departure from the workmanlike way most comedies are shot.
Unfortunately, he also tries to stuff a bit too much into his film, and as a result, some ingredients are undercooked. The primarily comic relief characters in particular suffer. David’s erstwhile lawyer pal’s arc is a bit too pat, and the one emo kid of his that discovers his secret is a major plot point for about fifteen minutes, even moving in with him, then pretty much disappears. The screenplay could use a little pruning and extra development, which hopefully it’ll get in its next iteration.
The main issue with Starbuck, though, is how it squanders its strong start. For about the first hour, I was convinced I was watching the best film of the year so far, but all of the intriguing situations and quandaries it raises are all wrapped up in a nice little feel-good, Hollywood package that undercuts all of the interesting stuff that led up to it. Nary a loose thread nor open end is left, all in the interest of saccharine ‘ol Captain Feelgood.
I’m so sorry.
I’m not looking forward to the near obligatory shot of Vince Vaughn’s O-face, but this French-language comedy shows enough humor, heart, and promise to be a fine film in its own right, but leaves room for something really excellent in its remake.
Take a Drink: for every kid he meets
Take a Drink: whenever children are referred to
Take a Drink: every time David jumps into water
Take a Drink: any time masturbation is shown or referred to by any euphemism
Do a Shot: every time David gets accosted out of the blue