Laremy Legel November 21, 2013
It would seem, upon first glance, that “Delivery Man” is a comedy in the same vein as “The Internship”or “The Dilemma”. In other words, it looks like a film you don’t have to think too hard about, one offering a few laughs and wrapping up with some facile “message” about work or relationships. A film that happens to star a veritable giant. Amazingly, “Delivery Man” is not this style of movie, not even remotely. In Vince Vaughn’s latest work, comedy isn’t the goal, even though our main character David (Vaughn) is a guy who is biologically responsible for 533 children, 142 of whom have filed a lawsuit to ascertain his identity. I repeat, none of this idea is played for yucks. Instead, it’s played for… not yucks. Indeed, the surprisingly serious “Delivery Man”, which finds French-Canadian director Ken Scott remaking / dubbing his previous film “Starbuck”, is a film that strives to make you think, and even tug at your heart. But the central foundation of the entire enterprise is so shaky that the walls and plaster are falling down all around you, even as you’re trying to make sense of it all.
So why and when do things get so severe? Right after the initial idea is presented, really. 533 times over, David’s sperm was successfully used to inseminate a woman. A lawyer from the clinic has come to deliver this sobering news, mostly so David can say, over and over, “Yo no soy David”. And truly, David has been asked to emotionally handle something that no one in the world would be equipped to deal with, and because of this “Delivery Man” attempts to pull of a magic trick, only after each attempt it then sways back for some prat falls, just in case you like that sort of thing. I’ll run you through a few examples. This David is a swell guy for wanting to do right by his biological children! But he owes money to mobsters. Why, this is a movie about privacy law! Only David’s lawyer friend, Brett (Chris Pratt), isn’t any good at lawyering. David is going to improve the lives of his newly discovered children! Only the sheer logistics of that would preclude any sort of existence that involved a job or any other relationships. Let’s take a dive into sperm donor rights! Nope, we can’t, because we need to have something in there about Brian’s love life instead. With each pivot from comedy to drama and back again, “Delivery Man” gets lost in this murky middle ground, never quite nailing any genre in particular.
That said, the actual central problem at the core of “Delivery Man” is the great big question mark hanging over the whole affair, the giant teddy bear in the room that everyone is willfully ignoring. It goes something like this: Why in the world would David feel anything other than horrified, hurt, and angry that a negligent sperm bank had used his, erm, materials, to make over 500 babies?! At what point would anyone in the uinverse say, “You know, I realize that the people who had these children used an anonymous donor on purpose, but they probably really meant for me to be the dad to their son or daughter, decades after the fact.” This only makes sense in a little place I like to call “Bonkersville”. Biology is not parenting, at least not in the case where you’ve never met the offspring, the parents, or really had anything to do with their lives right up until the point the movie started.
“Delivery Man” takes pains to show that, well, some of these children want to know who their real dad is. Sounds reasonable enough! There’s a good film in the idea of donor rights, privacy, and nature vs. nurture, but that film would be intimate and heartfelt, not broad and bawdy. And yes, there’s also a solid comedy motion picture where a guy has 500 kids, but that film wouldn’t bother going into the courtroom, or into various sob stories, or have its main character being leaned on by loan sharks. “Delivery Man” is the sort of film you’d get if pen pals were switching off writing a film with each new letter, only both of them wanted to go a different direction, an exquisite corpse that’s all left feet and elbows. The film routinely comes apart at the seams, which is a shame, because at very specific moments it was funny, and at other times it did deliver on thought-provoking drama (hey, I’m as surprised as you are).
Overall, if “Delivery Man” were a real estate transaction you’d be tempted to call it a “total tear down”. You’d sort of eyeball the den and think maybe it was worth salvaging, or the garage, or the swing set out back. But everything would have just a little too much wear, too little modern thought put into the build, or perhaps not quite be up to code. It’s a film with a lot of promise, even with its bad premise, only it never quite figures out what it’s trying to say, lost in the din of 142 voices, all clamoring for attention.
SCORE: 5.0 / 10
Laremy wrote the book on film criticism and thinks even one child would be pretty overwhelming.
Categories: ReviewsTags: Laremy legel, Review, Starbuck, The Delivery Man, Vince vaughn