Film Review – Delivery Man
Vince Vaughn has comfortably slipped into a suit of smarmor ™ for the better part of his career. Following a brief and mostly unsuccessful foray into darker territory (Return to Paradise, Psycho, The Cell), Vaughn seemed content embodying slight variations of the wise-cracking, button-pushing jerk who still managed to win over any girl, fraternity, or internship that got in his path. In an apparent attempt to shake things up, he chose Ken Scott‘s Delivery Man as the vehicle intent on softening those edges. Unfortunate, then, that it’s so lightweight it risks flying right out the window and into a DVD bargain bin.
A near shot-for-shot remake of his own 2011 Canadian feature Starbuck, Scott’s Delivery Man stars Vaughn as David Wozniak, an affable if irresponsible truck driver already deep into trouble with loan sharks before finding out he unwittingly fathered 533 children via anonymous donations to a fertility clinic some twenty years prior. A whopping 142 of them have banded together to sue “Starbuck” (the pseudonym Wozniak used on clinic forms), therefore forcing him to reveal his identity. To add to the ludicrousness, he’s helpfully handed files for each of his children and seeks to reach out and make a difference in their lives, all the while shielding them from the fact that he is indeed Starbuck. Schmaltizness ensues.
Ignoring numerous warnings from his lawyer-to-be best friend Brett (an always welcome Chris Pratt), David continues to insert himself into his children’s lives, teaching them valuable lessons such as “don’t do heroin” and “keep being a basketball star.” Upon discovering one of his sons is mentally disabled, David takes it upon himself to guide him on walks and helpfully remind all of his half-siblings that he’d hang if not for his disability. These sequences are too misguided to be deemed truly offensive, but the end result leaves you feeling icky rather than enlightened.
Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother, The Avengers) has the thankless role of David’s put-upon girlfriend who, uh-oh!, is pregnant with his child. Her sole purpose is to remind David what an eff-up he is while he pointlessly keeps his identity as Starbuck from her, even when the forthcoming lawsuit starts making national headlines. I suppose this is Scott’s attempt to add tension to the proceedings, but it feels too much like overwrought sitcom trash to maintain any sort of momentum.
The culminating courtroom scene is predictably predictable and elicited more groans at the preview screening I attended than anything in Alex Cross. With the exception of a few of Pratt’s (assumed) improvised throwaways, almost every joke is a misfire. Add to that the force-feeding of sentimentality and I couldn’t help but wonder what about the original Starbuck made it such a critical success in Canada. Perhaps Scott was able to capture some actual charisma on screen his first time out that is consistently lacking in this retread. I’d offer to check it out and write a follow-up, but I’ve already been on this ride once and got off feeling mighty queasy.