Delivery Man Review

Delivery Man carefully remakes Starbuck, save for the replacement of charm with schmaltz.

There’s a thin line between charming sentimentality and schmaltz, and where you place that line will entirely determine your enjoyment level of Delivery Man, a holiday turkey so overstuffed that you likely will not want seconds. Based on the French-Canadian 2011 film Starbuck, Delivery Man is more or less the same movie, which should not be that surprising since the same writer and director, Ken Scott, is the man behind both efforts. However, whereas Starbuck was affable enough to overcome both the crudeness of its premise and a third act sugar rush, Delivery Man feels nearly drowned in its corn syrup in no small part thanks to its very family-minded approach to what is essentially a barroom joke. David Wozniak (Vince Vaughn) is a hapless middle-aged screw-up who is still driving the meat truck for his father’s multi-generational butcher shop. Living in New York City all his life, one imagines his existence is predominately the same from day to day: Manage deliveries for his stern, foreign-born father, play basketball with his brothers at the local gym, and maybe romance his girlfriend when he isn’t dodging local teamsters for failing to produce the intended marijuana quantities. But just as his debt of $80,000 needs to be collected, and his current girlfriend Emma (Cobie Smulders) reveals that she’s pregnant, the biggest shoe yet imaginable drops on his head—perhaps it should have aimed for the other one. It turns out that in 1991, to pay for a family trip to Italy, David donated to a sperm bank under the name “Starbuck.” He donated a lot. And because of his exceptional potency, the facility may have been a tad overzealous with its distribution, leading to David fathering 533 children, a subset of which (around 130) are seeking to know his identity. Quickly, so will the whole world when word gets out about Starbuck Conventions and picnics being held by nearly half a thousand siblings.  Delivery Man is a very earnest love letter to the responsibilities of parenthood in the most awkward of circumstances. Just as David is learning a little bit later in life that he is ready to be a father to his and Emma’s first child, he also discovers that he owes similar duties to hundreds and hundreds of teenagers or 20-somethings. Indeed, much like the original, most of the best sequences of the film involve David taking his children’s profiles as they seek information about him and secretly visiting them. And as it so happens, nearly every child (at least not in a montage) that he sees will also be at a point of crisis in their life when the strange and friendly tall delivery truck driver appears to give them a helping hand. One is a struggling actor who needs his coffee shop watched (to disastrous results) while he auditions for a play; another is a minor who just so happens to overdose on pills at the exact moment David pays a visit, leading him to play her “father” for the paramedics and hospital. Despite the somewhat dire circumstances of all these events, it is played for laughs and is thus rather amusing when it stays on that wavelength. Unfortunately, it strives for a more dramatic beat while simultaneously moving away from the more authentic tenderness of the original. Despite Scott using almost all the same scenes, and often the same dialogue, Delivery Man feels far less daring in its humor or excuses of drama. In a well-lit and always glowing Manhattan, Delivery Man looks clean and slickly produced. Even childbirth will not drop a bead of sweat on a lead actor’s head. While the jokes landed with a knowing ickiness underneath all the fuzzy feelings in Starbuck, most of that has been scrubbed clean for holiday family audience that may not want to see the first scene of their Black Friday movie open in an early ‘90s sperm bank. And most strangely is the casting of Vince Vaughn. Vaughn has his critics, but he is great at what he has been doing more or less for the last ten years. He is the laid back, jaded cynic who probably since grade school has been throwing out scathing barbs from the rear of the classroom. Whether it is crashing weddings or rebuilding fraternities, when it comes to comedy, Vaughn has carved out a hilariously acidic niche for himself. In Delivery Man, even more than in his last family-friendly foray of Fred Claus, Vaughn is asked to play gentle-hearted and emotionally sweet. While he has proven more than capable of approaching such kindness in dramatic parts, it falls very flat when executed in comedy. To make David Wozniak completely relatable and good-natured, every action he makes is meant to be endearing or hopelessly silly. The fact that he is the father of 533 (plus one on the way) children just means he’ll have to spread his arms wider for the next bear hug. While certain comedians can pull off that wide-eyed innocence, even when doing terrible things, Vaughn has not shown to be one of them. And if we don’t believe David or much of the humor he is involved in, the whole movie is going to go limp.  Fortunately, one thing that is definitely delivering around the clock for Delivery Man is Chris Pratt. As David’s college buddy, not-so-moral conscience and lawyer, Pratt appears frequently to liven the mood from David’s wholehearted niceties. He is the one who tells David not to visit his kids, convinces him to pursue a counter-lawsuit against the sperm bank for damaging his anonymity, and just generally complain about being a father. Since Parks and Rec debuted, Pratt has started appearing all over Hollywood (indeed he will be in the Marvel Universe next), and he is a comical lifeline here, particularly when dealing with his own paternal issues. As a whole, the movie has some nice elements involving supporting players, as well as the nearly dozen kids who play an important bit or two in shaping David’s ultimate decision regarding his Starbuck responsibilities. However, the movie’s jokes feel often as off-the-mark as its slushy attempts at sentiment. Instead, it’s a pleasant-looking two hours with people whose family crisis will neither make you laugh or cry. But it might make you wish that this Hollywood remake remains anonymous. Den of Geek Rating: 2 out of 5 StarsLike us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all news updates related to the world of geek. And Google+, if that’s your thing!


2 out of 5