There's no complicated narrative brain-teasing in Starbuck, which has a great (if not entirely original) comedic concept it chooses to play seriocomedically — i.e., less for the laughs it seldom earns than for the heart-tugging it eventually pretty much does. An ingratiatingly rumpled Patrick Huard (a major Quebec star best known for the mega-hit Les Boys series and 2006's Good Cop, Bad Cop) plays David, erstwhile stellar contributor to a Montreal sperm bank in his salad days. Now older but no wiser, he finds himself confronted by the reality of 533 biologically fathered, now-grown offspring who've filed a class action lawsuit to discover his identity even as he deals with mob debt and an exasperated, pregnant semi-ex-girlfriend (Julie LeBreton).
This is one of those "loser man-boy must semi-grow up fast amid crisis, finding family values en route" scenarios tailor-fit for Adam Sandler. That said, the overlong, stubbornly endearing Starbuck is so much less insufferable than anything Sandler has made since ... um, ever? Halfway through, this agreeable movie gets clever — as David stumbles into a meeting of his prodigious anonymous progeny — and remains reasonably so to the satisfyingly hard-won happy ending.
It's still got moments of contrivance, editorial fat (too many montages, for one thing), and more climactic hugs than any self-respecting dramedy needs to get the redemptive point across. Yet it's also got something few comedies of any national origin have today: a lovely, distinctive, bright yet non-cartoonish wide screen look.
THE SILENCE opens Fri/29 in Bay Area theaters; STARBUCK opens Fri/29 in San Francisco.