American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"Starbuck" is one of those high-concept yet formulaic, sitcom-like comedies that gets by on charm and speed. It is manipulative and ingratiating ut totally worth your time if you manage to pass one crucial test: Does French-Canadian actor Patrick Huard's smile make you happy? For me, the answer is yes.
Huard reminds me of something director Paul Thomas Anderson once said about John C. Reilly, that the mere sight of his longtime collaborator — that genial, rubbery Reilly mug — makes him smile. Comparisons tend to cheapen things, but what the hell: Mash up Francois Truffaut, Daniel Auteuil and Judd Nelson, and you get Huard's homely/handsome/comical face. It's those kind Truffaut eyes, radiating warmth and passionate concern, that sell this movie's humanist spirit, despite its lack of bite or great surprises.
Huard plays David, a perpetual screw-up in his early 40's who finds out he is the father of 533 children. See, when he was a young slacker, he made tons of quick cash as a sperm donor—over 600 times. Since he used an alias, Starbuck, 142 of his now-adult offspring are filing a class-action lawsuit to get the sperm bank to divulge their father's true identity.
The suit couldn't come at a worse time for David, who is ducking violent loan sharks he owes bigtime, whose girlfriend is pregnant and whose job delivering meat for his father's butcher shop is always imperiled by his complete incompetence. Yep, it's one of those movies, the kind of reality-flavored comic fluff Ho'wood once factory-milled for "SNL" alumni every few months, before Judd Apatow took over the market last decade, adding a bigger dash of improvisatory salt.