Delivery Man: Film Review
Friday, Nov. 22 (Touchstone Pictures)
Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders
Vince Vaughn plays a chronic sperm donor whose progeny come back to haunt him in this American remake of 2011's "Starbuck."
Warmth and fuzziness abounds in Delivery Man, a feel-good yarn about the lovable-loser driver of a meat delivery truck whose old side gig as a fertility clinic donor has resulted in his being the dad of hundreds of biological children, of whom 142 have filed a lawsuit to reveal his identity.
An extremely faithful re-telling of Starbuck, a popular 2011 French-Canadian comedy directed and co-written by Ken Scott (who duplicates his services here), the fictional film politely abstains from tapping the storyline’s ripe, satirical potential in favor of a softer-around-the-edges approach.
Thanks to some potent performances, led by Vince Vaughn in a decidedly change-of-pace, reflective turn, this Disney release proves lightly entertaining in spite of its more heartfelt tendencies.
It should perform modestly with the older-skewing audiences who won’t be clamoring to catch Katniss and Peeta in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire on their shared opening weekend.
Fonzy, another Starbuck remake, was released in France last month.
Switching the setting from Quebec to New York for Delivery Man, but leaving the bulk of the characters and scenes intact, Scott and his co-writer Martin Petit, adhere to the formulaic in their Everyman portrait of David Wozniak (Vaughn), the charming but immature deliveryman for the Wozniak & Sons family business.
A career underachiever, David is determined to finally clean up his act when his girlfriend, Emma (Cobie Smulders), tells him he’s going to be a father.
Turns out it won’t be the first time -- a snafu at the now-shuttered fertility clinic where perpetually cash-strapped David would make regular deposits has resulted in 533 Wozniak descendants, many of whom have sued to reveal the name of the man only identified as Starbuck.
Refusing to heed the professional advice of his appointed attorney and best bud Brett (a very amusing, pudgy Chris Pratt), who’s barely coping raising four kids of his own, David surreptitiously tracks down some of the plaintiffs in the class action paternity suit.
His search results in anonymous interactions with a disparate group of late teens and 20-somethings -- including an aspiring actor, a drug addict, a YMCA lifeguard and a special needs young man confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak, among others -- each of whom unwittingly help David along his path to becoming a better man.
It’s also a path that makes some ill-advised detours away from the agreeably buoyant comedic tone and toward soggier emotional terrain.
The way one sequence in particular is staged -- involving an outing attended by dozens of his fresh-faced progeny -- you’d swear David had sired an Up With People reunion.
But it’s still nice to see Vaughn moving out of his fast-talking comfort zone in a role that requires him to be more quietly reactive; while Parks and Recreation’s Pratt comically raises the second-banana bar as a put-upon dad itching to get back into the courtroom.
While Smulders, unfortunately, isn’t given the same opportunity to show off her comedic chops regularly on display on How I Met Your Mother, acclaimed Polish actor Andrzej Blumenfeld (in his American debut) makes a more empathetic impression as the warm Wozniak family patriarch.
Production companies: DreamWorks, Reliance Entertainment
Cast: Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders, Andrzej Blumenfeld
Director: Ken Scott
Screenwriters: Ken Scott, Martin Petit
Executive producers: Ray Angelic, Scott Mednick, Mark Sourian
Producer: Andre Rouleau
Director of photography: Eric Alan Edwards
Production designer: Ida Random
Costume designer: Melissa Toth
Editor: Priscilla Nedd-Friendly
Music: Jon Brion
Rated PG-13, 103 minutes