To the seven or eight Americans (of which I'm one) who actually saw the French-Canadian film STARBUCK back in the spring of this year, the new Vince Vaughn film DELIVERY MAN is going to hit you as being remarkably familiar. And the fact that director Ken Scott also directed and co-wrote (with Martin Petit) the original film isn't going to make the existence of this new work any less confusing. That being said, this does seem like the type of broad film that Vaughn might find appealing as an actor. It's not strictly a comedy; in fact, there are quite a few serious moments in the film, more than your average Vaughn yuck-fest like The Internship. And I'll go to bat for the actor's attempts at drama, including the Ron Howard-directed film THE DILEMMA.
But the problems with DELIVERY MAN don't boil down to simply Vaughn trying too hard to make us laugh or make us feel. The issues are inherent in the insane story of a man who donated anonymously to a fertility clinic 20 years ago, and now finds out that the clinic used his "samples" exclusively, resulting in 533 children of various ages, 142 of whom have filed a class-action lawsuit to find out his identity.
Vaughn's David Wozniak, who works as a meat delivery man for his father's family-run butcher shop, is a royal screw-up, shirking responsibility at every turn and in debt to some very bad men for tens of thousands of dollars he spent on failed business ventures and other ill-advised purchases. The one good thing in his life is his girlfriend Emma (Cobie Smulders), who is on the verge of leaving him but has also just discovered she's pregnant. Needless to say, she is hesitant to let David have any part in raising this child, but agrees to his request to help in the birth-preparation classes.
The last things David wants is for these 142 offspring to find out what a screw-up he is or let anyone who knows him know how much donating he did to the clinic, so he fights the lawsuit with the help of his wacky lawyer buddy Brett (Chris Pratt, by far the funniest thing in this film). Brett leaves a large envelope with David containing profiles of all of the class action plaintiffs, and David can't stop himself from removing one page just to see what one of these kids looks like. Then he pulls another, and another, and with each one he pulls, he goes to visit that kid just to see how their life is going. Because he wants to be a good dad, even if they don't know it, he's able to be something of a mid-level guardian angel to a couple of them and ends up becoming their friend in the process.
There comes a point fairly early in this story where we honestly can't figure out why David wouldn't simply reveal who he is to these kids. It would certainly make Emma think he was a responsible person, if he's willing to open his life up to these people (or at the very least give them access to his medical history). The pluses so outweigh the contrived negatives that you'll probably get angrier at David the more the story carries on with his charade of wanting to help these kids with everything but the one things they all have in common. He even stumbles into a group meeting of many of the 142, as they receive an update on the case.
One of the other downsides of the film is that most of the kids we actually do get to meet are all weird, selfish assholes. Britt Robertson (from TV's "Under the Dome") plays drug addict Kristen, who overdoses right in front of David, as he's posing as a pizza delivery man to meet her (I'm guessing a lot of stalkers and rapists use that trick too). The other grating element of DELIVERY MAN is that every so often, thugs show up in David's life to cause him or someone in his family bodily harm to entice him to pay them pack. This film has enough going on that forcing bad guys into the mix feels truly unnecessary.
I was a modest fan of STARBUCK (the name the anonymous donor went by in both films), mainly because I thought the lead actor was funny (and everything is a little bit better in French), but DELIVERY MAN is, at times, excruciating to behold. I applaud director Scott's ability to milk this odd and unique little story into two films, and I'm always happy to watch Chris Pratt in pretty much anything, but neither of those factors make DELIVERY MAN any more bearable or amusing. Vaughn can be interesting when he's taking risks, which he does every few years, but this repeated retreat into painfully familiar territory brings out the loudest moans of mental exhaustion from the depths of my soul. Let's try again, Vince.