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By Ural Garrett · November 20, 2013
A scene-for-scene remake of French-Canadian comedy-drama Starbuck; Ken Scott (the original film’s director) directs its American adaptation, Delivery Man, well enough to serve as a vehicle for Vince Vaughn. Vaughn stars as David Wozniak, a man with more than a few problems. Alongside owing thugs $80,000, multiple sperm bank donations occurring decades ago have come to haunt him in the form of 533 children. Then there’s his cop girlfriend Emma (Cobie Smulders) who is not only pregnant with Wozniak’s child but doesn’t think he’s mature enough to handle the responsibilities of fatherhood. So there we have it, another standard plot featuring a lovable f**k up unexceptionally taking on the role as a parent.
Similar films from the much loved (Knocked Up) to horrendous (My Baby’s Daddy) have explored this terrain before. The adult male suspended in adolescent animation is forced to “man up” both literally and figuratively. Though The Delivery Man falls into familiar plot devices throughout its 104-minute time span, there are ample tweaks to the formula to deliver great moments, mainly due to Vaughn’s performance as delivery driver for his family’s butcher shop.
Delivery Man doesn’t really kick into high gear until his discovery of being the paternal father of 553 offspring coming in different social economic backgrounds, races, genders and sexualities. This leads to an interesting twist on scenes featuring “random acts of kindness” and flat out spying as Wozniak struggles revealing his donor identity as “Starbuck.” That includes working in place of one child auditioning for an acting gig and spending money on an aspiring musician who organizes a movement to find out who Starbuck is. The film’s strongest and heartfelt moments are the ones that involve Wozniak’s interaction with one son who has a severe mental disability. Vaughn plays a Wozniak full of varying emotions as he tries to humanly figure out the ridiculous situation he’s found himself in. It’s been a tough year for Vaughn who stared in the subpar comedy and two-hour Google commercial The Intern. Thankfully, his role in Delivery Man more than makes up for that Owen Wilson assisted train wreck.
One scene in particular that may cause controversy involves Wozniak using his newly found parental rights to put a minor’s job over rehab after witnessing her overdose on drugs. Though her drug use is never mentioned again, it seems awkward and out of place. Something that happens a few times; there are moments where the script can’t decided on taking certain moments seriously, even though it gets emotions right more than wrong.
Being a male centered story, Delivery Man deals with fatherhood’s many aspects. Parks and Recreation’s Chris Pratt portrays Wozniak’s stay at home dad and substandard legal advisor Brett. Pratt, at times believably, comes off as someone turned cynical by his years raising several rambunctious children. Emotionally displaying the more optimistic and warm attitudes of fatherhood is Polish actor Andrzej Blumenfeld (in his American debut) as Wozniak’s dad Mokolaj. Though Mokolaj doesn’t get any true time to shine until near the film’s closing, Blumenfeld does a great job of capturing the character’s genuine love of family.
Strong performances from Vaughn and subtle yet beneficial tweaks to a formulaic script really help turn Delivery Man into an above average comedy.