Here’s the pitch – Vince Vaughn plays an affable underachiever who discovers that he is the father of 533 children as a result of anonymous sperm donations that he made 20 years prior. Undoubtedly hilarity will ensue with a plot like that so it’s now wonder that Dreamworks/Touchstone Pictures forked over a check to produce it. Only, Delivery Man is more of a sappy dramedy than you might expect from such an inspired comedic concept.
The synopsis is quite clever and could have paved the way for a great comedic yarn, yet writer/director Ken Scott is more interested in taking an overly sentimental approach with his premise, as opposed to utilizing this material for a crude and raunchy comedy. There’s nothing wrong with an earnest comedy that has a heartwarming message, however a movie starring Vince Vaughn in which the usage of the word sperm is integral to the plot summary has no business being so gushy. However, if I were to begrudgingly accept that a wild laugh fest was not made and refrained from dismissing Delivery Man as a missed opportunity, the movie is in fact pleasant and entertaining enough.
This is a remake of the French Canadian film Starbuck and in an unusual move, Starbuck director Ken Scott is behind the camera for this American version as well; recreating his own movie almost scene-for-scene with only minor tweaks which cater to a U.S. audience. Ironically enough, this is Vaughn’s second carbon copy of an original film, with his first being the much maligned remake of Psycho. Of course, a shot-for-shot remake of a relatively unknown 2011 Canadian comedy will not cause the same uproar that the unnecessary revamp of the Hitchcock classic did.
Though not by much, this is a step up from Vaughn’s summer release The Internship. Both movies have humorous premises but produce more goodwill than they do laughs, yet Delivery Man is the more engaging of the two. Vaughn plays David Wozniak, a delivery driver working for his family owned butchery. His girlfriend Emma (Cobie Smulders) is fed up with his inability to commit to her or take responsibility in his life. When a representative from a sperm donation agency informs David that he is the father of hundreds of children who want to know his identity, the at first startled David sees this as his opportunity to find meaning in his life.
This is a much more reserved Vince Vaughn than we’re used to seeing. He’s still the consummate man-child, but gone is the snarky wise-ass from such films as Swingers, Wedding Crashers and Dodgeball, and in his place is a slacker with a heart of gold. While on one hand Vaughn’s performance could be considered a refreshing change, on the other hand there’s a reason why comedic actors get pigeon-holed into a certain persona – because it works. Chris Pratt (Parks & Recreation) actually has the more Vince Vaughn role than Vaughn does as David’s cynical best friend and lawyer. In a comedy in which Vaughn serves as the lead, it’s this sidekick supporting character who is meant to provide most of the comic relief.
While David refuses to reveal his identity to his plethora of biological children, he does become an integral part in many of these kids’ lives by playing their guardian angel in an effort to make up for lost time. The situations in which David tries to play savior to his kids are as contrived as it gets. The idiosyncrasies of his various children cover all the bases – including a heroin addicted teenage girl, a homosexual, a mentally handicapped boy, a struggling actor, a struggling musician and a famous NBA player, to name a few. These scenes in which David comes to his kids’ rescue are played out in a rushed manner and might have been better suited for a sitcom where each kid could get their own episode. From here, plot points unravel in a fairly predictable matter all the way to the inevitable happy ending.
Delivery Man is a sweet and harmless film but it’s also an ultimately forgettable piece of fluff. I’m hard-pressed to think of another comedic actor who has produced movie after movie of such sheer mediocrity in recent years as much as Vaughn has. These middling entries include The Watch, The Dilemma, Couples Retreat, Four Christmases, Fred Claus and the aforementioned The Internship, to name a few. Not that it’s saying much, but Delivery Man is better than any of those other titles. Still, it’d be nice if one of these days we’d get to see Vaughn at his ribald best, ‘swinging’, ‘crashing’ and ‘dodging’ again.