'Delivery Man' should have been returned to writers
05:00 AM, Nov 21, 2013
Contrivances edge out comedy in Delivery Man (* * out of four; rated PG-13; opening Friday nationwide), the story of a ne’er-do-well who succeeded spectacularly as a sperm donor, fathering 533 children.
Vince Vaughn plays the contributor in question. It’s not his fault the movie isn’t funny; he’s affable enough in this remake of the 2011 French Canadian film Starbuck. Both comedies were written and directed by Ken Scott, but the first film’s charm seems lost in translation.
Vaughn plays David Wozniak, a meat truck driver (insert off-color joke here) who made an inordinate amount of anonymous donations to a fertility clinic two decades before the film opens. Unbeknownst to him, his sperm was of the highest grade and the clinic offered it up repeatedly, resulting in those 500-plus offspring.
His progeny are in their early 20s now and 142 of them have filed a class-action lawsuit requesting the identity of their anonymous father be revealed. He called himself “Starbuck” for the clinic’s purposes.
Though David is a delivery man by profession, he doesn’t deliver much of a stable presence for his police officer girlfriend Emma (Cobie Smulders). And he disappoints his brothers and father all too often with his irresponsibility. He operates a small marijuana-growing business on the side in order to pay off debts he somehow incurred with some nebulous mobsters.
He does, however, manage to do OK by several of his spawn. Once he finds out who they are, through his buddy and lawyer Brett (Chris Pratt), he makes a point to visit them, incognito, and try to improve their lives.
That nary a mother of these twentysomethings pops up seems a glaring omission. In fact, moms are AWOL in the entire movie. David and his brothers don’t have one, and while Brett has four children, their mother is conspicuously absent. The story is essentially Two Men and 500 Babies.
The concept’s execution is sloppy, full of inconsistencies and plot holes. The situations teeter on funny, but never achieve it. And sections meant to be heartwarming feel lukewarm, far-fetched or inappropriately comical.
One of David’s children is a young woman who suffers a drug overdose. Her addiction is played for laughs in one scene. Though a doctor recommends rehab for her heroin use, David signs her out simply because she promises to show up for a new job. Poof! She’s all better.
One gag in which he tries to hide his identity by speaking Spanish (repeating “Yo no soy David Wozniak”) is worth a smile initially, but grows grating with repetition.
If anyone would be capable of wringing laughs out of this conceit, Vaughn would seem a likely candidate, at least given his hilarious performance in Wedding Crashers.
Yet the forced narrative doesn’t match the caliber of the casting. The movie veers between broad farce and sappy melodrama, detouring early and often into unlikely coincidence territory. In one sequence, David follows one of the kids into a hotel conference room where the Starbuck descendants just happen to be holding a meeting about him. How convenient.
As conceived, Delivery Man works way too hard to be the feel-good movie of the year. If only it had just focused on being funny.