Delivery Man makes genuine attempts at earning its rumination on family and fatherhood – meaning that even when it falls short, the material has already aimed higher than standard comedy fare.
In Ken Scott’s Delivery Man, Vince Vaughn plays irresponsible delivery truck driver David Wozniak – the naive, risk-taking, black sheep of his family. After a pyramid scheme leaves him with over $100,000 in debt, David discovers that, not only is his girlfriend Emma (Cobie Smulders) pregnant, he’s at the center of a high-profile privacy lawsuit. Twenty years back, David had regularly donated (in exchange for cash) to a fertility clinic under the pseudonym “Starbuck” - which in turn disproportionately distributed his “super” sperm to hundreds of women. As a result, David learns that his trips to the sperm bank resulted in the birth of 533 children that share his DNA – of which 142 have joined a class action lawsuit to unearth Starbuck’s true identity.
Curious, David goes undercover to meet his biological children and finds a bond with the diverse batch of young people, reveling in their talents as well as attempting to aid in their challenges. However, as the lawsuit becomes a trending topic on cable news channels, David must decide whether or not to reveal himself and take an active role in the lives of the “Starbuck Kids” – or focus entirely on his “real” family.
Director Ken Scott helms Delivery Man, a Hollywood remake of the 2011 Canadian comedy Starbuck, which was also directed by Scott. As with any remake, there are small differences between the two films, but even with the same director, Delivery Man is a surprisingly close recreation of the same story – this time with an American star and a New York City setting. For that reason, anyone who enjoyed Starbuck (which was runner-up in the 2011 TIFF People’s Choice Award), Delivery Man will likely come across as a shameless Hollywood adaptation of a superior indie film. Still, the core premise is ripe with comedy and emotion, Bollywood and French Starbuck remakes have also been released, and Scott maintains a solid balance between humor and drama in his own (second) effort. Therefore, moviegoers who have not already experienced the Starbuck story will find plenty to enjoy in Delivery Man, even if there’s reason to be cynical about a director refashioning his original indie picture for a mainstream audience.
On the surface, potential viewers might pigeonhole Delivery Man as another formulaic Vince Vaughn comedy, where the actor goes through his usual underachieving man boy turned grown man arc (see: The Internship, The Dilemma, and Wedding Crashers, among others). Yet, as David stalks his biological children, the film actually includes some pretty weighty story elements that force the main character (and subsequently Vaughn) to take the entire situation seriously.
There are still a number of laugh-worthy jokes but American audiences will likely be surprised by the amount of sincere moments that Delivery Man offers. Few are quite as profound as Scott may have intended, largely because Vaughn simply doesn’t have the necessary range to sell the diverse set of deeper ideas presented in this story, but dramatic scenes are not simply one-note throwaways either. Delivery Man makes genuine attempts at earning its rumination on family and fatherhood – meaning that even when it falls short, the material has already aimed higher than standard comedy fare.
As mentioned, Vaughn isn’t doing anything new in Delivery Man. In general, David is an amalgamation of the comedian’s other man-child leads – an aimless, self-centered, and underachieving guy that is forced to grow up as a result of the situation at hand. To his credit, Vaughn delivers in a number of encounters that ground the film in meaningful emotional drama but other moments are less successful as the actor comes across stilted and over-eager in selling a few especially delicate scenes.
Nevertheless, Vaughn is surrounded by a gripping group of young people that make up the four most prominent faces out of Starkbuck’s many offspring, namely David Patten as Central Park musician Adam (and organizer of the Starbuck lawsuit), Adam Chanler-Berat as philosophical lost boy Viggo, Britt Robertson as recovering addict Kristen, and Jack Reynor as aspiring actor Josh. Whenever Vaughn falls short, the enthusiastic cast of supporting actors is there to prop him up – with likable and relatable depictions of young adults in search of acceptance and family.
Several solid performers help round-out the Delivery Man storyline – including fan-favorite Chris Pratt (soon to lead Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy) playing David’s best friend and lawyer Brett. Pratt’s timing and understated approach to the character result in some of the film’s biggest laughs – ensuring there’s enough fun for viewers that might otherwise be overwhelmed by weighty drama in Scott’s film. Colbie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother) is equally effective as Emma, David’s pregnant girlfriend, but isn’t given very much to do. Despite her role in the larger story, Emma mostly serves as a motivator for David, and a reason to grow up, stepping into the plot whenever Scott needed to show a different side of his leading man – without tangible development for his love interest.
That said, it’s hard to fault Scott for keeping the Delivery Man plot focused on David and his extended family of biological children. In that effort, the remake succeeds at repackaging the smart Starbuck setup for a broader audience. Several plot threads get short shrift and it’s hard to escape the sense that this is a slightly watered down version of a unique original, but it’s still entertaining to watch the assembled pieces interact. Moviegoers looking for a laugh-out-loud Vince Vaughn dramedy in the vein of Wedding Crashers or Old School might be slightly underwhelmed by the amount of comedy set pieces in Delivery Man; yet for others, the competent mix of humor and drama should have no problem delivering a mostly fun (and even heartfelt) movie experience.
If you’re still on the fence about Delivery Man, check out the trailer below:
Delivery Man runs 103 minutes and is Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual content, some drug material, brief violence and language. Now playing in theaters.
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