Directed by Ken Scott
Starring Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders, Andrzej Blumenfeld, Bobby Moynihan, Britt Robertson, Jack Reynor, Dave Patten, Adam Chanler-Berat
Whether our viewing sensibilities are just outgrowing Vince Vaughn or people just aren’t writing good showcases for him, it is undeniable that his career is not what it once was. Wedding Crashers came out eight years ago. Let that sink in. I’m of the opinion that the problem has been the material. Ken Scott directs the remake of his own 2011 film Starbuck, which provides an avenue for Vaughn to branch out a little from his typical snarkiness. The result is a surprisingly heartwarming film, if not a bit on the forced side. With some serious revisions, this could have been a great film.
Comedies these days have such farcical plots that you have to just roll with it. If the idea of a man being hunted down by over a hundred of his own illegitimate children doesn’t instantly set off your BS meter, you can probably handle Delivery Man’s multitude of plot holes, inconsistencies, and “yeah right” moments. In reality, the contract of an anonymous sperm donor is rock solid. In the world of Delivery Man, however, David Wozniak has to deal with the fact that 142 of his 500 plus sperm donations are suing to know his identity. On top of this, he has to deal with becoming a “real” father as he accidentally knocked up his on-again-off-again girlfriend.
After Vaughn learns the identity of the lawsuit children, he takes to stalking them and playing guardian angel. Stalking one of his “daughters”, he defends her from catcalls. For a musician “son”, he encourages donations to his street performances. One particularly offensive thing is the way Scott portrays a daughter who overdoses on heroin. Vaughn has the opportunity to send the 17-year old addict to rehab, but instead chooses to take it on faith that she can handle it herself, making it painfully obvious that Scott has never dealt with drug addiction in any capacity. For anyone reading this, in case you didn’t know, send them to rehab. Disappointingly (for the films own potential), she keeps her word to this man she has never met before, presumably kicking her nasty drug habit and becoming a tax-paying citizen overnight. What a great opportunity to teach Vaughn’s character a harsh lesson about parenthood wasted.
Parks and Recreation star Chris Pratt plays opposite Vaughn, as his comically stupid lawyer friend. Their exchanges are often hilarious, but still fail to carry the necessary weight, given how much screen time they take up. Pratt brings much of the films comedy, but might conflict a little too much with the realism of the film. It seemed the writers could not decide whether to make Pratt the responsible one of the duo, or to make him Homer Simpson. He alternates between the two, but plays both roles well. In some scenes, he gives lucid legal advice to Vaughn, while other scenes show him being entirely cartoonish. It may be a nitpick, but it just shows another symptom of a sloppy screenplay, that such a crucial character is not entirely focused. His childlike demeanor in the courtroom scenes exist to show just how open-and-shut this case is.
Vaughn’s character also owes 80 grand to some seedy folk, adding a sense of urgency to the film that feels artificial. This is basic screenwriting 101 stuff. A plot device like this should be more ingrained within the film. It ends up being his reason for countersuing the sperm donation facility for defamation. Wouldn’t greed be a much more interesting motivator, though? Also, this falls flat because the stakes of his trial aren’t that serious. There should be some consequences when his children find out who he is. Instead, they are joyous and relieved. This is all fine and good for the feel-good factor, but I wanted some more authenticity added to the stakes.
In the end, Delivery Man doesn’t quite have the comedic chops to be a great comedy, nor does it have the dramatic chops to be a great dramedy. And that is the problem. No matter how much I was enjoying the movie, I just felt it wasn’t something I would ever want to come back to. When I think of any film that I love, I think of those classic moments, moments which were sorely missed in Delivery Man. Still, there are a lot worse films in theaters right now and this one is quite enjoyable.