Delivery Man (2013) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual content, some drug material, brief violence, and language
Running Time: 103 min.
Cast: Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders, Bobby Moynihan, Andrzej Blumenfeld, Simon Delaney, Dave Patten, Adam Chanler-Berat, Britt Robertson, Jack Reynor
Small role: Jessica Williams, Jay Leno, Bill Maher
Director: Ken Scott
Screenplay: Ken Scott (based on his original screenplay, "Starbuck", with Martin Petit)
Review published November 23, 2013
Delivery Man is a Ken Scott remake of his own film from two years prior, the R-rated French-language Canadian film, Starbuck, which he co-wrote with Martin Petit. It's a high-concept comedy that delivers basic sitcom-heavy situations, and one's enjoyment will likely solely be influenced by how much of a fan one is to its star, Vince Vaughn (The Internship, The Watch), than anything that is introduced into the farfetched plot that can't build on much beyond the joke of its main premise.
Vaughn plays a 40-something underachiever named David Wozniak, a delivery man for his family's meat business ("delivering the meat" is perhaps a double entendre). Wozniak is as irresponsible at how he manages his money as he is in his job and relationships, which causes him to try just about anything to keep his head above water. Through his lawyer friend Brett (Pratt, Zero Dark Thirty), he learns that one of those schemes he had tried back in the day comes back to him in a big way when it turns out that the mass amount of sperm donations he had made to a fertility clinic in his early adulthood has resulted in him becoming the biological father to 533 now-adult children, some of whom have filed a lawsuit against the clinic that misused Wozniak's grade-A sperm for every pregnancy.
These children want to know who the mysterious donor named "Starbuck" is, while Wozniak seeks to retain his anonymity. Yet, despite not wanting to be found out, he's intrigued to see what has become of his progeny, taking time to visit them under false identities to help guide them in a fatherly way, without revealing that he is, in fact, their father. Not only this, but his long-suffering girlfriend (Smulders, The Avengers) reveals that she is carrying his baby, leaving the man who never had children before faced with the prospect that he may be the father to the most amount of children of anyone on Earth.
For the umpteenth time, Vince Vaughn is playing a conniving slacker, and his typical schtick is perhaps the only thing this film might have going for it for his fans. We know that, by the end, he'll eventually own up to all of his responsibilities, so until then, we are treated to a cavalcade of scenes in which he must worm his way into someone's good graces until he finally has to confront doing the one thing he's been resisting all along: growing up. However, even if Vaughn could play this role in his sleep (come to think of it, he does seem to be sleepwalking through this one), he doesn't elevate it the way he could in his prime, when his routine had been hip and fresh These days, Vaughn is too much of a known quantity, and too entrenched in his comfort zone playing slackers, perhaps so much so that it reveals why he excels at them -- he's a consummate slacker himself.
Perhaps instead of Scott remaking his own film, he should have optioned it as what it is -- a sitcom -- wherein Wozniak visits a new child every week and helps them with whatever contrived life-event they happen to be needing a fatherly assistance in, rather than an absurdly forced film in which all things come to a head at just the right time. They could have called it, "How I Met My Father (and Didn't Know it") or something to that effect. At least it wouldn't have had the plot turn on a dime every two scenes, including such hard-to-swallow machinations as owing $80,000 to the mob, dealing drugs, family business drama, relationship issues that come to a head at the worst possible moments, and the local amateur basketball league's inability to flourish.
Delivery Man is bad enough as a comedy by not being at least competently funny in most regards, only occasionally stumbling into a couple of mildly chuckle-worthy moments featuring the interplay of Vaughn with his co-star Chris Pratt (claiming he "gained weight for the role", though that was likely a joke), who is playing a man who has a handful with his four young children, echoing how ridiculous Wozniak's life might become should he own up to his over 500. But writer-director Scott misses the boat by not building on this subtle humor, playing just about everything as broad and obvious as possible, including the ludicrous notion that this admittedly titillating story would be the front page headline of every major newspaper in the country. And you never see any of the real mothers or adoptive fathers of any of these children, including one who ends up in the hospital, which just makes all of these children feel like one big Greek chorus that behave as a hive entity.
In its favor, the film's direction by Scott is fine, as well as its score by Jon Brion (This is 40, The Break-Up) that sees him try valiantly to squeeze out that tear that the screenplay and performances themselves couldn't muster on their own. But the script is tired, needing not only more quality jokes, but more emphasis on basic plausibility in order to give it the ring of truth to at least find the tug at viewer's heartstrings as the movie nears its end somewhat tolerable. The set-ups to the jokes are heavy-handed and completely contrived, as Wozniak enters seemingly each of his children's lives right at their greatest moment of need, with an actor just on the verge of getting the role that will break him into the business, or, even more tired, a junkie daughter who is right about to potentially die of an overdose mere seconds after he has entered her life as a phony pizza delivery man with a heart.
Without many laughs, truly poignant moments of drama, and without even a performance by Vaughn doing something we haven't seen him do a dozen times before, it's all a bust in the comedy department. For a film full of so many 'delivery' motifs, it's ironic that it doesn't deliver on any level.
©2013 Vince Leo