Schmaltzy Man Fails to Deliver
David Wozniak (Vince Vaughn) is being sued. He’s a New York delivery truck driver for his family-owned meat packing company. He’s also an eternal bachelor barely making ends meet and not exactly chomping at the bit to jump into commitment and responsibility when longtime girlfriend Emma (Cobie Smulders) reveals she’s pregnant. Heck, David hardly has three pennies to his name, so the fact he’s the subject of a law suit asking for a monetary payout is admittedly bizarre.
Turns out, 20 years ago he made a lot, tens of thousands of dollars of a lot, of donations at an affluent sperm bank, and through a rather unusual set of circumstances somehow he’s the biological father of 533 children, and 142 of them want to know his identity. They’ve filed a lawsuit to override the confidentiality agreement, attempting to set a unique precedent that could have repercussions that goes well beyond interrupting the mild-mannered delivery man’s juvenile personal life. Against the advice of lawyer and best friend Brett (Chris Pratt), David has started to learn the identities of some of these offspring, secretly checking in on them as he comes to realize he wants more out of life than a cold beer and to watch an afternoon ballgame free of familial responsibility.
Adapting his own French-Canadian import Starbuck, writer/director Ken Scott’s Delivery Man has the exact same problems and issues its predecessor had, dripping in sentimentality and straining credulity at every turn. At the same time, it also has many of the same strengths, featuring a number of laugh-out-loud moments and scenes of startlingly effective tenderness that brought a tear to the eye. It’s a wildly mixed bag; some of it awesome, much of it reasonably okay, while a large section is obnoxiously overbearing in its schmaltzy corniness.
I can’t say I’d ever want to watch this movie again. Granted, even though I didn’t mind Starbuck all that much it moved me so little I never felt compelled to actually write a review for it when it opened domestically earlier this year. For the most part that’s exactly how it is with this remake. Delivery Man isn’t terrible, it’s just not particularly memorable, at least not for the right reasons, and as nice as many of the positives are they’re just not extraordinary enough to warrant deep and meaningful contemplation afterwards.
I will say that for Vaughn this movie is a sterling reminder that he can be a much better actor than he’s oftentimes given credit for. Making a valiant attempt to drop his usual shtick, he brings an authentic transparency to Dave that’s endearing, and even when Scott’s script goes off the deep end into mawkish ineptitude (one of his kids is dealing with addiction issues, how she overcomes them borders on infuriatingly clueless) somehow the actor keeps things emotionally grounded and dramatically centered. This is as close to a great performance as he’s ever come to delivering, and I appreciate how willing Vaughn is to go outside his comfort zone in order to stay true to the film’s Capra-esque themes.
Yet sadly I just don’t have a lot more to add. Scott’s film is instantly forgettable, and while the premise is certainly unique I still don’t feel like he’s done enough with it (either version) to make the story worthy of debate or discussion. Nothing that happens is unexpected and no turn is unforeseen, and the fact the director wastes every single one of his female cast members in nothing, almost insulting roles (especially Smulders) is close to inexcusable. Vaughn’s performance and a handful of pleasing moments notwithstanding, Delivery Man doesn’t transport an entertainment package worth getting excited about, let alone one any potential audience member should be paying good money to see.
Film Rating: 2 (out of 4)