Mark Reviews Movies

Delivery Man

DELIVERY MAN

2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Ken Scott

Cast: Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders, Andrzej Blumenfeld, Simon Delaney, Bobby Moynihan, Dave Patten, Adam Chanler-Berat, Britt Robertson, Jack Reynor

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements, sexual content, some drug material, brief violence and language)

Running Time: 1:43

Release Date: 11/22/13


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Review by Mark Dujsik | November 21, 2013

You may not be aware, dear reader, how tempting it is simply to copy and paste my review of Starbuck here. Some may recall that Canadian comedy—released only several months ago in the United States—in which a man discovers that, due to a clerical error at a clinic, his sperm donations have been used to sire over 500 children. Delivery Man is the American remake of that movie, and while one might dread the possibility of a different and more vulgar sensibility overcoming this kind of material, writer/director Ken Scott (who co-wrote and directed the original) at least keeps the kindhearted tone here.

He has kept just about everything else, too. Besides the obvious change of the cast, the primary alterations in the remake are that it is now set in New York City instead of Montreal and that a couple of characters attend a basketball game instead of a soccer match. Delivery Man isn't technically a shot-for-shot remake, but the movie is one in spirit.

If the original movie had been a more consistent affair, that devotion could have worked in the remake's favor—the opportunity to revisit proven material and, perhaps, find slightly alternative means of humor through specific jokes and performances—or, at least, not worked so much against it. That is not the case, though, and the rehash is simply playing the same notes—both the good ones and the ones that are off-key—of its precursor. We can still appreciate what the screenplay gets right, but the problems are amplified because of the missed opportunity to do something different. Maybe it could have been worse, but at least there'd be an attempt.

David Wozniak (Vince Vaughn) works as a delivery truck driver for his family's meat shop, and he's terrible at the job—irresponsibly racking up parking tickets, late for every delivery, and coming and going as he pleases. His financial situation is a mess, and he's in debt $80,000 to some guys who have no problem causing bodily harm to get the money back. He's even worse—if that's possible—at his love life, ignoring his girlfriend Emma (Cobie Smulders) for days. After a late-night (or early-morning, depending on one's sleep schedule) meeting, she reveals that she's pregnant. Emma wants to keep the baby, but she does not want David to have any part in raising the child.

Then the bombshell hits. A lawyer for the clinic where he made regular sperm donations under the pseudonym "Starbuck" tells him he's the father of over 500 children and that almost 150 of them are suing the clinic to reveal his identity. His best friend/lawyer Brett (Chris Pratt), a cynical father of four, agrees to represent David and, later, brings him an envelope with the pictures and profiles of all the young men and women suing the clinic. After looking at one out of curiosity and discovering that his progeny is a professional basketball player, David decides to seek out more of his biological children. All of them have problems of varying difficulty, so he chooses to help them out as much as he can without revealing his relationship to them.

David helps one get to an audition that could make his career by taking his shift at a coffee shop. He helps a young woman who's addicted to drugs and must then "pretend" to be her father at the hospital, where the doctor believes she would benefit from a rehabilitation program; the daughter believes she can stop on her own (There's an awkwardly lighthearted music cue as he walks back and forth between them, weighing his options, that downplays the severity of the situation). It's all about David learning about responsibility, and he actually figures out the most important part of that on his own when he holds himself accountable for the decision he makes at the hospital and actually makes certain he's made the right one.

What becomes apparent in this revisit to the material is Scott's reliance on montage to bypass the story's heart and, later, the court scenes, which, by that time, really don't matter given that we already know David's outlook toward his hundreds of children has changed (His decision to keep the whole thing a secret from Emma is innocent but cruel, with the latter more apparent in this version). The first part is the more disappointing, because the few developed scenes of David with his children are sweet without becoming too saccharine. After them, the movie gives us a series of gags: David tries to encourage people to donate money to his street performer son, scolds men for making catcalls at one of his daughters, fails repeatedly on a diving board to catch the attention of a lifeguard son, etc. One sequence, though, makes good use of the editing standby by showing David spending the day with one son who's developmentally disabled.

Vaughn is fine as the affably hapless hero, but like Scott's adaptation of his own work, none of the performances really creates anything distinct from what has come before it. Delivery Man is a safe, uninspired retread of a movie that actually might have benefited from a do-over.

Copyright © 2013 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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