March 29, 2013
Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 3 MIN.
There really can be too much a good thing; that's the premise of Ken Scott's new French Canadian comedy in which a young man who made a mint donating his sperm to a clinic grows up to be a middle-aged man with 142 of his now-grown biological progeny clamoring to know who he is.
Who he is, to the kids, is "Starbuck" -- that's the code name assigned to David Wozniak (Patrick Huard) by the clinic. To his family, David is the perpetual clown and loser. Every family has one; he fills the role to a T, managing to get even the simplest tasks wrong, in life as at work.
For pregnant girlfriend Val�rie (Julie LeBreton), none of David's miscues and antics is amusing. She'd rather raise their child-to-be be herself than entrust le enfant to someone so inept and unreliable. When she hears word of the class-action lawsuit brought on "Starbuck" and the clinic by 142 of his 533 clinic-facilitated offspring, Val�rie reflects the national mood: She, like most other people, thinks that this "Starbuck" guy must be some sort of pervert. (He's known by wags as "El Masturbator" for his frequent contributions to the clinic's sperm bank.)
It's in the face of such social revulsion that David has to weigh concerns for his privacy against the needs of so many young people -- and his own growing need to learn how to take responsibility. How can he be the attentive father Val�rie needs him to be when he ignores so many sons and daughters crying out for him?
It's impossible, of course, for anyone to be a father (or mentor, guardian, or pen pal) to such a throng, but David does choose a few of his children at random to observe from a distance. One is a soccer star; another is a heroin addict; others are subway musicians, lifeguards, tour guides. David seeks to act as a "guardian angel" to as many of his brood as he can manage, all while guarding his anonymity.
But how will he respond to the gay son? Or the disabled son, who lives in a medical institution? The movie shows us David's limits, and shows him learning to surmount them.
Regrettably, and unnecessarily, the film is saddled with a subplot in which David owes a lot of money to a gang of goons. The thugs periodically drop in to beat and nearly drown him; the only reason for any of this is to put financial pressure on the character such that the potential payoff of a countersuit is both tempting and relevant. (Another plot convenience: David's best friend, Avocat [Antoine Bertrand] is a lawyer in need of a precedent-making case to validate his entire existence.)
Fortunately for viewers, the thugs are a sporadic presence (too sporadic: Since when do gangsters wait for months on end to collect on their debts?), and the film more or less progresses in a logical, if unlikely, manner.
Along the way are some genuinely sweet moments, which give the film a pleasant and winning tone, even though the comedy seldom rises much above the level of eliciting a grin. This is a family-friendly entertainment in the largest sense of the word: 100-plus brothers and sisters getting together for picnics at a lake, an inventive and genial dinner scene in which David introduces Val�rie to his somewhat rough and tumble brothers and father.
There's a Hollywood remake reportedly already on the way. One can only imagine how the film could be hijacked by the "media sensation" aspect (more cameos for TV infotainment talking heads that litter the movies these days). See the original while you can: The film steers clear of farce, despite the farcical premise, opting instead for optimism. The result is a heartwarming little charmer that is best enjoyed with your story logic chip powered down and your hand firmly planted in that of your sweetheart's.
Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.