Delivery Man (film review)
Delivery Man (2013) Walt Disney Pictures
1 hr. 43 mins.
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Colbie Smulders, Chris Pratt, Britt Robertson, Bobby Moynihan
Directed by: Ken Scott
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Critic’s rating: * ½ stars (out of 4 stars)
Telling a raw joke about an irresponsible man planting his seed around town that results in him having hoards of children from many different women obviously begs the clumsy punch-line: was the wayward father an NBA player? Perhaps a Mormon? Maybe a cult leader? How about a politician? The gag pretty much invites its own embedded predictable humor. However, if the intentional baby-maker was a middle-aged moron saddled in a typical Vince Vaughn vehicle where recycled cheesy laughs and synthetic sentimentality awkwardly mix like cheese doodles and champagne then does the so-called joke get lost in translation?
It does when it is writer-director Ken Scott’s woefully flaccid farce Delivery Man with the clunky Vaughn in the lead as an underachiever in life who evidently overachieved in the sperm donation department. Delivery Man stumbles, bumbles and tumbles with Vaughn in the familiar role as the contrived cad that needs to grow up. No doubt that Vaughn feels comfortable in throwaway impish comedies but his roguish shtick feels rather tired and lame in the lackluster laugher Delivery Man.
Interestingly, Scott oversees the dud Delivery Man as this hammy chucklefest is an Americanized remake based on his own 2011 Canadian French-language flick Starbuck that was a modest success up north. The gimmick in watching Vaughn’s Delivery Man protagonist David Wozniak cozy up to fatherhood despite his man-child immaturity is merely a baseless ploy at best. In fact, Scott’s need to incorporate some heart-warming hogwash to give this limp and silly-minded story a boost registers with all the feel-good impact of a paternity suit.
The forty-something Wozniak is a walking disappointment to his father (Andrzej Blumenfeld) and only holds a job as a delivery truck driver for his family’s delicatessen business because of the necessity of nepotism. Wozniak has always been financially strapped for cash. In addition to his money woes Wozniak lacks decent character as his shady dealings include bad business investments, gambling, substance abuse and his overall foolishness to get his act together. Wozniak’s pregnant girlfriend Emma (Colbie Smulders from TV’s “How I Met Your Mother”) is even fed up with his continuing downward spiral.
Wozniak does not realize that his upcoming role of Daddy Dearest to Emma’s kid will be the least of his anxious moments. Wozniak learns that he is in further hot water when a fertility clinic is under scrutiny from its sperm-produced customers wanting to know the identity of their biological father and will sue the clinic for that vital information. You guessed it—David Wozniak volunteered his sperm donations back in the 1990’s as a desperate means to get paid for his services. The result of Wozniak’s bodily involvement produced a whopping 533 children with 142 of his irate offspring wanting to get acquainted with their natural father.
Wozniak’s lawyer buddy Brett (Chris Pratt from TV’s “Parks and Recreation”) advises his client to keep a low profile until this whole lawsuit mess is settled. But Wozniak feels that redemptive need to play a paternal overseer to his now grown-up brood so he proceeds to help them out while maintaining his secret as their long lost sperm-distributing papa. Soon Wozniak is in over-protecting mode trying to guide these young adults that came from his loins and help them realize their dreams, goals and self-worth. Of course this all leads into the self-discovery of David Wozniak as a rehabilitated loser that needed to re-examine his life in a nutshell.
In short everything about Delivery Man feels manipulative and clichéd. Scott tries to juggle the Neanderthal Wozniak and use his irreverent armor of seediness to both accommodate him as a matured misfit and to soften him for the transformation as a troubled yet tender guy that really cares for the neglected masses of minors he produced all those years ago. Delivery Man could have made for a shrewd and delightfully outlandish romp but Vaughn simply does not have the slickness to pull off this role of an aging bad boy wanting to mend his wicked ways and do right by his sticky predicament.
Scott saddles Vaughn’s Wozniak in random scenes where he tries to encourage a selected bunch of his 20-something charges to concentrate on what their passion is at hand. Whether cheering on a celebrated son that is a pro athlete or persuading another one to try his acting chops in front of the camera the manufactured sentiments come off as rushed and hokey-minded. In particular, the pot-dealing Wozniak trying to assist one of his daughters (Britt Robertson) in dealing with her heroin addiction just rings of wishy-washy inspiration that comes off as false. Plus the climatic court showdown where Wozniak and his mounting legal lapses collide turn out to be another eye-rolling, tidy conclusion.
The only thing probably worth a hearty smirk in Delivery Man is its titular double entendre meaning (Vaughn’s deliverance of edible “meat” and human birthing “meat” is somewhat childishly clever). Pratt steals the show as Wozniak’s wry divorced sidekick Brett struggling with just four children of his own yet wondering how Wozniak can embrace the sudden part of a concerned family man to a population that can fill an entire high school gymnasium.
The wacky and weepy message about familial irregularities and a paunchy older frat boy as the unlikely catalyst to strengthen the unity of the fractured family failed to comically deliver.
NOTE: Focus of New York film critic Frank Ochieng is a member of: