If the thought of being Jon in Jon & Kate Plus 8 scares you, how about being the father of 533 children?

Decked in sweat pants, meat-truck driver David Wozniak (Vince Vaugh) certainly doesn’t fit the bill of a Casanova. So his bountiful offspring have everything to do with his sperm donation at a fertility clinic 20 years ago, and nothing to do with his allure as a lover.

In fact, the 42-year-old loser gets into another fix, landing himself in debt to the tune of $80,000 when his grand plan of growing poppies on his lawn goes up in smoke.

You wonder how someone like him gets to land a gorgeous girlfriend like Emma (Cobie Smulders) who’s pregnant with his baby. Or indeed gets to have biological children mostly endowed with model-like appearances [check out Adam (Dave Patten) and Josh (Jack Reynor)]. After all, every stereotype suggests that only desperate, ugly or desperately ugly women have to resort to sperm donors.

If nothing, you can be sure of the movie’s visual appeal. But that’s being too hard on Vaughn, who has stepped up from subpar performances in his previous comedy films: The Dilemma and Four Christmases (where the humor and storylines fell flat in spite of the strong cast). In fact, the 2006 Comedy Star of the Year winner makes a fairly successful go this time even without Own Wilson, his co-star in The Internship and Wedding Crashers.

Besides evoking laughter from the audience, this film delivers emotive scenes through Wozniak’s attempts at secretly playing “guardian angel” to his newfound kids, after learning that some of them are trying to discover who he is.

In a memorable scene of him trying to help his drug-addicted daughter, Kristen (Britt Robertson), his clumsy replies like “we believe in more humane pizza” were slightly cringe-worthy. Despite that, it can’t help but tug some heartstrings when the audience sees Kristen hugging him out of gratitude for signing her hospital release.

The downside of Wozniak’s wanting to be there for his children and making up for lost time takes a toll on his being there for his girlfriend’s soon-to-be-born baby.

Fans of Smulders may deem her role as Emma – the disappointed, pregnant girlfriend­– to be piddling, when she’s proven to be much funnier in her other roles, such as Robin Scherbatsky in television sitcom How I Met Your Mother. The David-Emma relationship could certainly have benefited from more conflict and sidesplitting dialogue.

Chris Pratt, best known as Andy Dwyer in television series Parks & Recreation, put on 30kg for his role as Brett, the chubby best friend of Wozniak.

With his newly-acquired bulky built, Pratt plays his character as an unlicensed lawyer and a disgruntled daddy-of-4 with deadpan hilarity, especially through his palpable chemistry with Vaugh in their teasing banter.

Witty lines from Brett, such as “My children know they’re too old to be aborted” and “This is order?” make up some of the most laughter-inducing moments of the film.

Viggo (Adam Chanler-Berat), one of his sons, plays a pivotal part in rousing the daddy in Wozniak, making him realize that his accidental 533 children are no less his “real family” than his child with Emma.

With the audience riveted on the comedy, it’s tough for some of the non-mainstream soundtracks (“Someday” by The Strokes, “Little Hands” by Inland Sky and “Ten Ton” by Saturn Missiles) that imbued the film with the right notes of breezy rhythms, to gain the attention they deserve.

This American remake of the 2011 French original, Starbuck – which won the Most Popular Canadian Film Award at the Vancouver International Film Festival and the runner-up for the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival – has regrettably attracted many online disputes over its striking resemblance, from its storyline to the dialogue, to the original.

If only scriptwriter and director Ken Scott, who also wrote and directed the original, had just exerted greater efforts to refashion the comedic dialogue slightly, this film would surely be the perfect New Year laugh of all ages.

Rating: 4/5
Release date: Jan 1
Runtime: 105 minutes
Language: English
Censorship rating: PG 13
Genre: Comedy/ Drama
Director: Ken Scott
Main Actors: Vince Vaugh, Cobie Smulders, Chris Pratt, Britt Robertson


Photos courtesy of blog.zap2it.com, lifeaccordingtodamaris.com, trendsmane.blogspot.sg, ew.com