Just two years after his sophomore feature Starbuck, French-Canadian writer/director Ken Scott returns with this remake of his previous film, starring Vince Vaughn as a sperm donator at the center of a class-action lawsuit to reveal his identity. A welcome change of pace from the painfully obvious and unfunny The Internship, Delivery Man mercifully finds...read more
Just two years after his sophomore feature Starbuck, French-Canadian writer/director Ken Scott returns with this remake of his previous film, starring Vince Vaughn as a sperm donator at the center of a class-action lawsuit to reveal his identity. A welcome change of pace from the painfully obvious and unfunny The Internship, Delivery Man mercifully finds its star forgoing his typical motormouthed shtick in favor of something that actually resembles a thinking, feeling human being. In addition, the director genuinely seems to have something relevant to say about our evolving definition of “family” in an era when that word can have a multitude of meanings.
Aside from the fact that he was a regular visitor at a fertility clinic 20 years ago, there's nothing particularly remarkable about David Wozniak (Vince Vaughn): He drives a meat-delivery truck for his father’s butcher business, he can’t seem to hold down a relationship, and lately he’s taken to growing marijuana as a means of paying off an $80,000 debt. He’s so inept at even the simplest things that his girlfriend Emma (Cobie Smulders) can’t stand the sight of him after she reveals that she’s pregnant with his child. When an attorney tracks David down and reveals that he is the biological father of 533 children, and that 142 of them have filed a lawsuit to learn his true identity, the former donor panics, recruiting his lawyer friend Brett (Chris Pratt) to defend the privacy agreements he signed at the clinic. When Brett returns with an envelope containing profiles of all 142 children named in the lawsuit, however, David can’t help but look, and before long he’s surreptitiously injecting himself into the lives of his unsuspecting offspring. Meanwhile, as he begins to grow excited at the prospect of having his own child, he finds that sometimes the best fathers are the men who seem the least fit for parenting.
A warmhearted comedy that takes full advantage of its unique high concept (well, relatively unique), Delivery Man occasionally dabbles in such tired stereotypes as the bumbling, brainless prospective father, but the difference is that screenwriter Scott actually uses them as a means to an end, not an end itself. In Delivery Man, David’s inability to grow up serves as a launching pad to asking some pretty fascinating questions about what it means to take responsibility not just for your own life, but for the lives of those you helped bring into this world. Of course, given that it’s first and foremost a comedy, Scott devotes plenty of time to exploring the absurdity of the situation (and, in the case of Pratt’s character, the energy-sapping trials of fatherhood), but it’s the film’s more poignant plot points that resonate most -- David’s emotional first encounter with a troubled daughter, his discovery of a child with severe cerebral palsy, and his time spent with a philosophy-spouting son who knows his secret all prove essential to his growth, and are all handled with a sincerity that add a welcome depth to the script’s broader comedic conceits.
Sure, there’s the occasional plot hole -- it’s difficult to believe that no one would have found out David’s identity after the story goes international (especially after a hilarious slipup late in the film), and an early indicator that one of his children knows his secret is forgotten almost as soon as it’s spoken -- but while those simple oversights may prevent the movie from achieving perfection, they rarely undermine its earnest endeavor to explore shifting family dynamics and their impact on our ability to connect with others. Meanwhile, even when it starts to feel as if Scott may be fumbling in his attempt to juggle multiple story lines, his ability to continually bring the story back to its center results in an overall satisfying balance of comedy and drama.
Vaughn deserves as much credit as anyone for walking that fine line, and though it’s easy to imagine that Scott had his fair share of trials when it came to reigning in his leading man, the actor manages to alter his over-the-top personality just enough to make it work within the context of the story. It’s the perfect role for Vaughn and his performance here is genuinely nuanced, though his thunder is frequently stolen by Pratt as the hapless father of four who’s desperate to prove his worth as a lawyer. Not only does Pratt get some of the film’s best lines, but he delivers them with expert comic timing, whether addressing the press or practicing his closing arguments before a roomful of skeptical children. Much like David, Brett may appear incompetent on the surface, but he also manages to come through when the chips are down.
In the end, that’s what Delivery Man is all about -- accepting the people we care about, warts and all, and trusting that they’ll always stand by us when we need them the most. For those who find themselves alone in this world, that defines “family” just as much as sharing our genes with someone who, by choice or by fate, has fallen out of our lives.
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