Rated PG-13, 105 min. Directed by Ken Scott. Starring Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders, Andrzej Blumenfeld, Simon Delaney, Bobby Moynihan, Dave Patten, Adam Chanler-Berat, Britt Robertson, Sébastien René.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Nov. 22, 2013
It’s possible to look past the colorlessness of this new comedy, as well as the fact that it’s an almost shot-for-shot remake of 2011’s Québécois hit Starbuck, the director of which, Ken Scott, has been imported to Hollywood so Americans can watch his remade movie sans subtitles and with the substitution of popular Canadian performer Patrick Huard for American swinger Vince Vaughn. But even noting the toned-down performance of Vaughn and the film’s overall amiability, there are some creepy and unexplored issues lurking in the margins of this story that can’t be brushed away.
David Wozniak (Vaughn, whose usual fast-talking demeanor is here slowed to a schlubby crawl) is a notorious, fortysomething underachiever, whose job responsibilities as the delivery driver for his family’s meat business even prove burdensome. With more parking citations to his name than dollars, David is also in debt to loan sharks to the tune of $80,000. His girlfriend Emma (Smulders) is pregnant but she isn’t sure she wants to accept David’s promise to change his ways and accept the rigors of parenthood. David’s disorderly life becomes more of a shambles as the news arrives that he is the father of 533 children due to his frequent sperm donations to an administratively compromised fertility clinic 20 years earlier. Now 142 of those offspring have filed a class-action suit to discover their paternity, which has been protected all those years by David’s nondisclosure agreements as the anonymous donor named Starbuck. (The story derives from an actual incident in Canada, where the pseudonym connotes not the ubiquitous coffee chain but a famously fertile bull.) Starbuck quickly becomes the country’s laughing stock, mocked in nightly monologues from Jay Leno to Bill Maher.
When handed a packet of the litigants’ profiles with orders from his attorney and best friend Brett (Parks and Recreation’s Chris Pratt) to keep it sealed, David, of course, opens the Pandora’s box. One by one, David begins tracking down his kids and helps each one as an anonymous guardian angel might, but the line between this activity and stalking is mighty thin. Each involvement is sillier than the last, yet this fatherhood grinch’s heart grows larger with each rescue. Curiously, there are no mothers present to help out their beautiful-but-troubled kids.
Delivery Man is a wide-open paean to parenthood – a nonjudgmental state that accepts children of every race, sexual orientation, and disability. David conveniently gets to skip past the years of dirty diapers and teenage hijinks to enjoy the more gratifying years of choosing careers and forging adult identities. And despite one’s best intentions, how can a person be a present parent to 533 chldren, or even 142? Just like the original film, this one ends with a gigantic group hug – only this one has the former slickster Vince Vaughn, now barrel-chested man-boy, at its center. The film lacks any undercurrent of believability. But I guess that’s not surprising in a film that casts Vaughn and SNL’s Bobby Moynihan – complete physical opposites – as brothers.