Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Ken Scott
Stars: Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders, Andrzej Blumenfeld, Simon Delaney, Bobby Moynihan, Dave Patten, Adam Chanler-Berat, Britt Robertson, Jack Reynor, Amos VanderPoel, Matthew Dadario, Bruce Altman, Damian Young, Sebastien Rene.
Vince Vaughn often plays the obnoxious jerk, the affable underachiever, or the emotionally immature irresponsible slacker with a heart of gold who often finds redemption in the last reel. In his latest film he trots out yet another variation of his familiar screen persona.
Here he plays Dave Wozniak, who drives the delivery van for his family’s meat packing business, but he is irresponsible and unreliable. He grows marijuana in his apartment, and racks up hundreds of parking fines. He also owes nearly $80,000 to some sinister types who are threatening bodily harm unless he pays up. At the same time he learns that his long suffering girlfriend Emma (Cobie Smulders, from How I Met Your Mother, etc) is pregnant, and while he wrestles with the issue of impending fatherhood, his past comes back to bite him.
In his younger years Wozniak was a prodigious donor to a sperm bank for some ready cash, under the pseudonym of Starbuck. But now he is approached by a lawyer representing a fertility clinic, who informs him that his sperm has been used to father 500 children, and 140 of them have filed suit to learn the identity of their biological father. Dave at first panics, and seeks advice from Brett (played by Chris Pratt, from Parks And Recreation, etc) his best friend and a struggling lawyer raising four young kids of his own.
But curious, he begins to anonymously check out some of his offspring and acts as a sort of unofficial guardian angel. He finds that amongst his children are a professional basketball player, a lifeguard, an aspiring actor working as a barrista, a talented busker, a troubled young woman battling her addiction to drugs. Most touching of all is Ryan (Sebastien Rene, reprising his role from the original), a seriously handicapped and disabled kid living in a nursing home.
While his lawyer files a counter suit against the clinic to keep his identity a secret, David begins to bond with some of his children and warms to his role as a father. He then has to make a big decision – whether to stay silent and anonymous or step up and take responsibility.
Delivery Man is a faithful, scene by scene remake of the high concept 2011 French-Canadian comedy Starbuck, which also inspired the recent Bollywood comedy Vicky Donor. Quebec filmmaker Ken Scott, who wrote and directed the original, also oversees this inferior remake, which has been dumbed down somewhat and aimed at a more mainstream audience. He has relocated the material to Brooklyn, but otherwise the film pretty much follows the template of the original. Delivery Man lacks the edgy quality of the original though, and it seems a little tone deaf, and the humour is broader. There are also a number of contrived moments and some subplots that go nowhere but are obvious padding that stretch the material unnecessarily.
The film explores themes of parenthood, fatherhood, the importance of family, and responsibility, and is a little overly sentimental and mawkish as it delivers some life lessons.
Those hoping for a repeat of Vaughn’s glory days with Wedding Crashers and its ilk may be a little disappointed. Delivery Man is not the most sophisticated comedy around, but it works well as a vehicle for Vaughn, who has an affable quality when given the right material – which has not been very often in later years as he has been stuck with lazy performances in a number of crass low brow comedies. He plays the loveable oaf and perpetual man-child well, and has a more winning presence than Adam Sandler. At least here Scott manages to rein in some of his more irritating mannerisms and over the top style. Vaughn also eschews his usual fast talking shtick and abrasive style for a more nuanced take on his character that allows him to reveal a more sensitive and sympathetic side to his usual screen persona.
Pratt has a naturally goofy presence, and he brings some wonderfully sarcastic humour to his role. And his smart delivery of one-liners provides the film with some of its best moments.
Delivery Man is a warm hearted but saccharine reminder of the importance of family, and of how father often live vicariously through the achievements and triumphs of their children, even if, as in this case, there are 142 of them!