What happens when a slouch finds out he has more children than he can count on 100 hands? Well, in director Ken Scott’s world, the result is Delivery Man an underdeveloped, klutzy film that, while full of potential, evaporates quickly amid humorless scenarios and faulty acting from a cast of youngsters who are supposedly adversely affected from not having a father in their lives.
Scott’s production, a near exact replica of his 2011 French-Canadian film, “Starbuck,” revolves around lovable loser David Wozniak (Vince Vaughn, “The Internship”). He’s a middle-aged guy stuck in directionless rut — sees himself stuck in a dead end job driving a delivery truck for a butcher shop operated by his brother (Bobby Moynihan, “Saturday Night Live” TV series) and father Mikolaj (Andrzej Blumenfeld, “The Pianist”), and has racked up $80,000 worth of debt owed to antsy loan sharks. Oh, and his too hot for him girlfriend (Cobie Smulders, “The Avengers”) is pregnant with his baby and is tiring of his dead-end ways.
But it gets worse. Mostly for him, but definitely some for the audience too.
When David was younger and broker(?), under the pseudonym of “Starbuck,” he donated his “seed” to a fertility clinic over 600 times. 533 times it was used successfully to produce offspring. Of these kids, 142 of them want to know who their father really is. They’ve filed a class action lawsuit against the clinic demanding it release his identity. Imagine those child support bills. Or the abandonment issues that’ll creep up during dinner conversations.
So after discussing options with best friend and disbarred lawyer (Chris Pratt, “Zero Dark Thirty”), David decides to fight to keep his anonymity (as any sane man would) but he is compelled to secretly try to impact some of the lives of his hundreds of “disregarded” children (something a sane man wouldn’t do).
As the schlock playing secret Santa, Vaughn is very effective. Given slightly more to work with than the usual cocky, rapid-fire persona he’s ridden to stardom, his approach to David is more grounded. And thanks to an unexpected capacity to show empathy and actually act on those feelings, Vaughn convinces viewers that he’s a struggling, heart-heavy Joe Schmo deserving of their backing even during the sillier moments of Delivery Man. The best parts of the movie, however, come during the times when Chris Pratt is on camera. Listening to nuggets of parenting horror and wasted life wisdom from a miserable father of four is surprisingly funny.
Unfortunately, Scott doesn’t keep him around nearly enough, continuing to instead put David into nonsensical situations like a weekend camping excursion in disguise. And don’t even get me started on the film’s inner workings that just don’t add up. For instance — and this is after suspending most disbelief — how can children sue to find out the identity of a sperm donor, under explicit contractual laws which would protect him? In what sort of world would these now grown-ups a) find each other and b) really band together for therapeutic, jubilant trips with discussions of their feelings and songs of Kumbaya?
Superficial as it may be, Delivery Man still advocates a few societal messages which can really hit home. First and foremost, family is the nucleus of most any endeavor we may embark on. Secondly, sympathy, even in the face of absurdity, should trump all else. Care a little, and the favor will be returned in some form or another. It’s too bad really, that they’re lost within a narrative of abject stupidity.