Delivery Man (2013)
★★ / ★★★★
David’s profile: a forty-something meat truck driver, personable but an underachiever, not very good at his job, unreliable, owes almost a hundred thousand dollars to a bunch of thugs, and has a girlfriend (Cobie Smulders) who just broke the news that she is pregnant. To top it off, a lawyer reveals to him that his sperm, in which he had donated about seven hundred times in a fertility clinic between 1991 and 1994, had created five hundred thirty-three children and one hundred forty-two of them wish to know his identity. David (Vince Vaughn) decides to look into them one by one to determine if he is fit to be a father.
It goes without saying that “Delivery Man,” written and directed by Ken Scott, has a ridiculous premise but that is not what prevents it from being just an average picture. And although it is not afraid to enter a more dramatic territory on occasion, the sudden shifts in tone and mood more often distract than compel. What results is a film that is highly uneven—very funny in certain sections but a drag the majority of the time.
Vaughn gets the many of the lines but he is overshadowed by his co-star. Chris Pratt gets about a third—if that—of screen time and yet every time he is in it, he knows what to do with his lines, face, body language, and has a way of making us wonder what his character’s life is really like divorced from his friendship with David. That is, we are curious to know the man who is neck-deep in stress when it comes to taking care of his four young children. Pratt’s posture and overall disposition screams very dad-like and so we believe his character, Brett, is genuinely trying to look out for his man-child friend.
Vaughn, on the other hand, delivers what is expected. His approach of talking really quickly works at times but I have grown tired of it. Whenever he is on screen, which is often, I wondered when he will do something surprising. He never does and it is such a disappointment because his early pictures, like Doug Liman’s “Swingers,” show that he is capable of so much more. If the comedic screenplay does not demand a challenge, I think he has reached a level where he can ask or suggest to be given something different to do. Otherwise, the movies that he chooses to appear in start to look and feel very similar.
The film is not above sentimentality but, admittedly, some of it worked for me. I was moved—to a point—during the scenes where David visits his disabled son, Ryan (Sébastien René), and the two (appear to) spend time just being around one another. They share not one line of conversation and yet their scenes contain more emotion than the most of the scenes where David must give a speech to someone in order to convince them that he has something to offer.
I wished that the scenes between Ryan and David were better executed, however. The montage approach does not work. I immediately thought about how a foreign or a seasoned director might have constructed the scenes in a smoother manner in order to really give us the time to absorb and understand how important it is for David to be with his son.
The picture might have worked better if the premise were dealt with during the halfway point. We all know how the movie will end so why take forever to get there? It tests the patience. Wouldn’t it have been a lot funnier if we got a chance to see how Thanksgiving or Christmas was like if one had about a hundred fifty children? I know that it gets crazy when my family and relatives gather in one house over the holidays—and there are only about thirty to forty of us. How about birthdays? Why not meet some of his kids’ parents? There are so many situational comedies unique to the subject’s situation that are left unexplored.
A remake of “Starbuck,” also directed by Scott and co-written with Martin Petit, “Delivery Man” is not unlike its main character. It settles on underachieving rather than attempting to push the limits of its potential. I look at the director and I wonder if it gave him artistic pleasure to repeat the same song and dance. I would have been bored. He probably was, too, because there are moments when it showed in his work.