Starbuck is a Tremendously Touching Comedy That Doesn’t Forget to Laugh

Starbuck, a terrifically entertaining comedy from our friendly neighbors to the north in Quebec, Canada opened March 22 and continues to play in theaters such as the Landmark and Laemlle in Los Angeles and Pasadena. It’s a completely funny and charming film from start to finish that captures the essence of the aging X-generation as it hits mid-life crisis in the form of a Peter Pan type character suddenly forced to face the responsibilities of adulthood – in spades. Although the plot centers around a concept geared toward mature audiences it is not beyond the appreciation of young adults, and in fact offers a solid (yet lighthearted) message about family and identity that should resonate well with younger viewers struggling with issues of belonging and self awareness.

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Patrick Huard (a French-Canadian actor, producer and writer) stars as David, a 42-year old lovable but perpetual screw up who lives the life of an irresponsible adolescent. From the first scenes we learn that David coasts through life with minimal effort, evading loan sharks, while working as a delivery man for his family’s meat market and maintaining a relationship with a policewoman (Julie LeBreton). Just as his girlfriend tells him she’s pregnant, David’s past resurfaces in a spectacular way. You see, twenty years earlier he was a sperm donor to a fertility clinic that apparently relied exclusively on his abundant donations. Now he discovers he’s the father of 533 children, 142 of whom have filed a class action lawsuit to determine the identity of their biological father, who up until now has been known only by the pseudonym Starbuck.

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Because he has been viscerated by the press and faces the real possibility of financial liability David decides to hide his identity from everyone except his best friend who is also his lawyer. But he just can’t help himself and decides to secretly observe a few of his offspring. The encounters range from the thrilling to the tragic, the banal to the hilarious as David discovers the satisfaction of selflessly being there for more than one of them in a well-timed moment of need. And although it has its moments of seriousness, Starbuck never forgets that it is a comedy first and foremost. Making even the heaviest of moments a little lighter with just the right amount of awkward silliness. Of course, complications arise and what started out as an anonymous gesture becomes very involved as David’s good deeds bring him closer and closer to 142 people who were once total strangers, to him as well as to each other. Ultimately the group forms into the most unusual and untraditional family you’ve ever seen. That’s a pretty heavy concept for a comedy, but Starbuck manages to strike the right cord at every beat, often prompting a smile even in the most touching of moments.

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Plain and simple Starbuck is a fun watch. It’s not the funniest film ever made but it’s one of the most entertaining I’ve seen in a very long time. Most importantly it doesn’t try desperately hard to get you to like it. It just is a good, straightforward likeable film led by the irresistibly charming Huard who is completely winning as David, who when backed into a corner and forced to think fast on his feet, is most particularly charming. I urge you to take a date, your friends, and family to what is likely to be everyone’s favorite film of the season. It’s no summer blockbuster, nor does it try to be. But Starbuck is perfect for a fun and memorable movie-going experience that will spark many lively and enjoyable post viewing discussions.

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And FYI, upon seeing the first few scenes of this particularly engaging French language comedy I just knew that someone was going to want do an American version. And sure enough, as it turns out Vince Vaughn has already completed production on the Hollywood remake. He’s a very good choice for what is now titled Delivery Man as Vaughn personifies the character Huard so deftly establishes in Starbuck. However, it’s going to be a very different film regardless of the fact that you have the same director, Ken Scott at the helm. Good or bad, a Hollywood film just can’t help taking on certain aspects that makes it, well, very Hollywood. I have nothing against remakes or Vince Vaughn, and in fact will likely see the Hollywood re-do just to see how it compares, but I urge you to see this original before the remake which is set to be released later this year on October 4. I promise you won’t be disappointed, and very likely will make you appreciate the Americanized version all that much more.

Don’t Stop Believin’ Breaks Faith by Falling Short of Being the Rock Doc It Should Be

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On the surface, Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey appears to be an intriguing documentary. After all, it’s about the real life rock ‘n’ roll fairy tale of the front man of a Filipino tribute band who becomes the lead singer of a signature American 80s rock group. I mean, come on! The fact that this even happened is amazing! It’s every wannabe rock god’s dream and it actually happened – to a guy from the Philippines! With such an inspiring rags to riches basis for a story how could the film not be a fun-filled thrill ride, right? The sad answer is that I don’t know how director Ramona S. Diaz achieved that goal but she did, because this is one of the most boring documentaries I have ever seen.

Honestly, I really wanted to like this film. I’m from what some might call the lower South Bay of San Francisco (home territory to the original members of the band) and one of my very first concert going experiences was seeing Journey at a Day on the Green event at the Oakland Coliseum in 1983. I wasn’t a fan when I went into the stadium that day but I was a convert by the time I came out, and ended up listening to the group’s albums on cassette with my friends over and over again during the long drive home to Santa Cruz. To this day I find the music of Journey to be uplifting, catchy and inspirational – as do millions of others all around the world. In fact the film’s title song is the most downloaded song EVER. So you’d think there’d be a way of capturing this fanatical devotion on screen, right? Apparently not for Diaz, or at least not in this case.

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The film starts out exciting enough with Journey’s iconic guitar player Neal Schon explaining how he discovered Arnel during a desperate search on YouTube. That part of the movie will keep you in rapt disbelief as each member of the band contributes to the unfolding of this Cinderella story. Jon, Ross, and Deen (along with Neal) are all tremendous storytellers with great screen presence. And the wonder boy Arnel himself is an incredibly charming and likable guy with a disarming smile. But when it comes down to it, it is his voice that will win over even the hardest-hearted non-believer. It’s truly nothing short of mind blowing just how good this guy is. However, very shortly after this exciting set up the film begins to loose its steam and falls into a series of boring, oft seen glimpses into the real life of a rock and roll musician. Do we really need to see that again?

After Arnel is discovered and the band accepts him there just doesn’t seem to be any more there. We are told of concerns about die-hard fans accepting Arnel, however a few cursory interviews of the first attendees seem to imply that nobody is all that worried about it. And there are no after performance interviews with the concertgoers to give us any idea of what their reactions to the new face are. Really, that kind of footage should have been included somewhere, at some time. And there’s never more than a passing mention of Steve Perry, the man whom Arnel sounds so much like. I understand there are probably reasons for this (the group’s falling out, etc.), but there’s not even a mention in the credits that Perry was approached for comment, or that the band declined to include him. There really should have been some explanation offered even if just in the crawl at the end of the film. The fans would expect and certainly deserve this.

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On the more interesting side we are given a slight understanding of the lifetime’s worth of hardships Arnel has overcome. He has, after all been plucked from a third world country and must now navigate the immense pressures of replacing a legendary singer and leading a world-renowned band on their most extensive world tour in years. Unfortunately it doesn’t stay interesting for very long. It’s not that the information itself isn’t worth delving into, it’s that Diaz hardly scratches the surface of the subject sticking to the obvious without explaining further than the information one can find with a quick Google search. I was under the impression documentaries should show more, and that the implication of impending conflict without resulting in any conflict is bad story telling. It’s not that I want fabricated drama, not at all. I just ask that there be a different approach taken. If it’s all sunshine and happiness then show it, rather than false tension (at least it didn’t come across as that big a deal) be created over a minor cold or a soar throat.

Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey features band members Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain, Ross Valory and Deen Castronovo, and has a running time of 105 minutes but feels much, much longer. The film was released recently into select theaters on March 8 and became available on VOD on March 9. But honestly, I encourage you to just check out the trailer at http://www.everymansjourney.com/. It’s a whole lot more interesting and will take a lot less time. Here’s hoping someone comes along and gives this story a better opportunity to tell its tale. I think it’s the least this band deserves. At least that’s what I believe.