“Delivery Man” Movie Review

     I can see how someone may watch director Ken Scott's "Delivery Man" and view it as a simple coming of age film for it's star, Vince Vaughn. Here, he is essentially playing the same character he has played in virtually all of his other films, which is due mainly to his unique personality as well as his script choices. Many may say this isn't a "Vince Vaughn" movie, but I'm here to say it is and if you are long weary of Vaughn's antics seen in films like "Couple's Retreat" and "Wedding Crashers", than the extra dose of sentimental subject matter won't likely sway your opinion. "Delivery Man" is an American remake of Scott's own 2011 French language film "Starbuck" with nearly all of the story elements intact. The film takes a comical, yet unorthodox look at fatherhood in a familiar plot featuring the overused forty something slacker who suddenly realizes he's had it wrong all these years.

     We immediately realize from early scenes that David Wozniak lives a very irresponsible life where the people he is closest to simply can't trust him to accomplish minimal tasks. He works for his family's meat packing business as a delivery driver and somehow maintains a relationship with his police officer girlfriend, Emma (Cobie Smulders). When an attorney for a fertility clinic abruptly arrives at his apartment and advises him he has fathered 533 children over the past 20 years via anonymous donations, the shock initially leaves him at a loss for words. Turns out 142 of the now mostly grown children have filed a class action lawsuit to find out the identity of their biological father, known only to them by the pseudonym Starbuck.

     After consulting with his attorney and friend, Brett ( Chris Pratt ), David is given a file that contains the identities and personal information of each of the 142 children. What starts with the innocent attendance of a Knicks game when he finds one of them is a star on the team, soon turns into undeniable curiosity of the whereabouts of the others. This leads to David creating what appears to be chance encounters with several of the children, many in their workplace, others in more dire circumstances, where he attempts to intervene when necessary into situations he believes will either give him a glimpse into their lives or benefit them directly. In one sequence, David takes the reigns in a coffee shop, so his unknowing son won't miss the opportunity to audition for an acting role. There are dozens of scenes like this and Scott presents some of them in full, but many are edited into more of a montage that strips them of any substance.

     The filmmakers clearly ensured the children represent a diverse mix of race as well as economic status which will likely help the film resonate with a broader mainstream audience. Ultimately, the film's third act brings what starts as a local news story to national headlines as now everyone in the country is following the case as it makes it way through the legal system. "Delivery Man" works at times mainly because the supporting players make for strong compliments to Vaughn's brand of humor which can't help but be on display, even in some of the film's lighter moments. Beyond the budding relationships David creates with several of the children, there are many well written scenes that explore the ups and downs of parenthood with David's attorney, Brett, who's a stay at home dad to his four children, as well as David's own father, Mikolaj (Andrzej Blumenfeld) whose patience and thoughtfulness throughout the film serves as a foundation for every father to build upon.

     Scott allows Vaughn to take over with his usual brand of comedic delivery throughout, but injects several moments which also allow for Vaughn to expand his range, one of which is a genuinely touching scene involving one of his sons who is disabled, confined to a wheelchair, and unable to speak. The problem with the narrative structure, and by default the plot as well, is these scenes are able to cover a very small percentage of these kids. When the group comes together in a meeting for their law suit, they seem more anonymous than anything and resemble a cause rather than actual people. Perhaps a television series may have been a better medium for the idea.

     For most audiences, getting them to shed a tear isn't a difficult task, but the lack of solid writing designed to elicit a few laughs is where "Delivery Man" really misses it's mark. Most everything Scott and Vaughn likely intended to be funny falls flat, which leaves this film playing within a very uncommon tone for it's lead. As a director, Scott excels when he concentrates his shots on two people having a conversation, but seems to lose control when his compositions include motion and multiple actors, with a poorly shot sequence during a recreational basketball game coming to mind as an example. The overall product, like most films, has it's highs and has it's lows, which put it somewhere between serviceable holiday entertainment and something you’ll forget about a week later. GRADE: C