The equally shlubby Patrick Huard plays David, a middle-aged man with no ambition who seems perfectly content delivering meat for his family’s butcher shop, even if he’s not very good at it. He’s $80,000 in debt; his ex-girlfriend (Julie LeBreton) has announced she’s pregnant with his child; and, worst of all, his past years of prodigious sperm donation under the pseudonym of Starbuck have come back to haunt him.
He learns that the sperm bank used his li’l swimmers to father 533 children, 142 of whom are part of a class-action lawsuit to learn his identity. Curious, David starts looking into their lives; he begins helping them out without revealing his connection to them. The guardian-angel act gives him a purpose he’s never felt.
It’s tough to feel any ill will toward a film so genial and well-meaning. Director/co-writer Ken Scott (reprising both duties for Delivery Man) tackles the “man-child grows up” story with a gentle tact that never veers into gross-out territory — surprising given the, um, fluid premise.
Huard has an instantly likable quality to him that is to Starbuck‘s immense benefit; his Everyman nature carries the story through its low points, of which there are a few. For being such a plot catalyst, LeBreton’s character is all too absent; the actress is wonderful with what little she’s given to do, much of which is keeping things grounded in reality.
The bigger complaint is that there’s not much of an emotional payoff. Heft is substituted with schmaltz, which Scott otherwise takes steps to avoid, so the ending feels false and incomplete, yet not so disappointing that it bursts your mostly inflated balloon of goodwill. Starbuck is the very definition of a crowd-pleaser. —Rod Lott