Friday, November 29, 2013


Funny man Vince Vaughn has made a career out of playing obnoxious, motor-mouthed, louts in raucous comedies like “The Wedding Crashers,” “Couples Retreat,” “The Internship,” “Old School,” “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story,” and “The Watch.”  In his latest laffer “Delivery Man,” he doesn’t portray another obnoxious, motor-mouthed, lout.  Instead, he plays a sympathetic, soft-spoken, slacker.  Subdued as he is in writer & director Ken Scott’s remake of his own French-Canadian film “Starbuck” (2011), Vaughn is cast as a middle-aged, ne’er-do-well, oddball who scraped together a pile of dough during his youth from providing sperm donations for a fertility clinic.  The premise of “Delivery Man” is singular in its novelty.  No other comedy that I can recall has ever employed this plot.  In an administrative blunder of nightmarish proportions, the fertility clinic relied almost predominantly on our protagonist’s sperm, and the 693 deposits that he banked with them bred 533 children!  Two decades later, the progeny insist on meeting their papa, and they challenge our humble hero in court to divulge his identity.  As rude, crude, and lewd as “Delivery Man” (**** OUT OF ****) must sound, this sentimental, feel-good, PG-13, pleasantry is not cut from the same cloth as most of Vaughn’s characteristic, lowest common denominator, slapstick farces.  Incredibly enough, in a season celebrating super-heroic exploits like “Thor: The Dark World” and feats of empowered femininity like the incendiary “The Hunger Games” sequel “Catching Fire,” “Delivery Man” focuses on down-to-earth, flesh-and-blood characters who live quiet lives and blend into the background.  A conspicuous loser in virtually every facet of his life, our sperm donor extraordinaire has no idea that he has sired so many offspring.  

David Wozniak (Vince Vaughn of “Four Christmases”) drives a meat delivery truck for Wozniak & Sons, his immigrant father’s business in New York City.  Without a doubt, David is the slowest delivery man on his papa’s payroll.  Not only is he a magnet for uniformed NYPD cops writing parking citations, but also he has landed on the wrong side of ruthless loan sharks.  He is over his head in debt to these hooligans for $80-thousand.  Nevertheless, everybody loves David, including his cute girlfriend, Emma (Cobie Smulders of “Safe Haven”), who happens to be one of New York City’s finest.  Before our ill-fated protagonist learns about his woes from the fertility clinic, he discovers that Emma is pregnant.  She adores David, but isn’t entirely sure that he would make an adequate breadwinner.  She agrees to give David a chance but warns him that he will remain on probation until she decides otherwise.  
Sadly, David has struggled over the years with various get-rich-quick schemes.  Those pie-in-the-sky ideas have yielded little in the way of consequence.  As the action unfolds, David has just scrapped his latest inspiration—cultivating marijuana hydroponically—when he learns about Emma’s pregnancy.  Emma has always wondered why David has never invited her to his cramped man cave where he tries to grow pot.  While David is worrying about his woes with Emma, he finds out that 142 offspring from the fertility clinic have embarked on a class-action lawsuit to smoke him out into the open.  When our hero submitted his sperm to the clinic back in the day, he signed a confidentially contract.  David’s best friend and sometime attorney Brett (Chris Pratt of “Moneyball”) advises him to lay low.  Brett has four children of his own and advises David to steer clear of his children.  David has never distinguished himself with his brilliance.  He takes a packet from Brett that contains profiles of the 142 children.  Mind you, every one of David’s biologically sired children is grown-up.  Despite Brett’s warnings to not peruse the profiles, David does and hatches a bizarre scheme to act as their guardian angels.  Like a guardian angel, he helps out his offspring without letting them know that he has a stake in their lives.  Initially, he attends a basketball game where one son is playing and behaves like a one-man cheerleading squad.  In another instance, he stands in for a barista so the guy can attend a casting call for actors.  Predictably, inept as David is, he all but destroys the coffee shop as he tries to perform a good deed.  Later, he rescues a daughter as she is about to plunge herself into the nightmare of heroin addiction.  Several lesser examples occur with David berating wolves whistling at a sexy daughter, assisting a drunken son with a cab, and urging bystanders to ante up contributions for a sidewalk musician.  Meanwhile, Brett tries to concoct a strategy that will serve them well in court.  Brett is a woebegone underdog himself.  Indeed, his own motherassured him long ago that he is no Perry Mason.  When Brett tries out his courtroom defense approach on his four children, they question his competence as an attorney!
Scott and Québec-born, co-scenarist Martin Petit never miss a chance to be multi-culturally correct.  As it turns out, the women who availed themselves of David’s prolific sperm donations were not exclusively white.  David begat a few African-Americans, too.  Furthermore, some of his grown-up brood preferred to explore alternate lifestyles.  At least one of them is handicapped both mentally and physically.  The awkward scenes between David and his crippled son are the stuff of tearjerkers.  A lesser movie would have depicted a breakthrough with the handicapped guy acknowledging his biological father.  Of course, contrived as it is, “Delivery Man” doesn’t let our hero get off the hook.  Just when it appears like David’s anonymity will remain intact, everything comes crashing down.  Cynically, with the Thanksgiving holidays at hand, you could say that Touchstone Pictures, a division of Disney Studios, couldn’t have chosen a better time to release this art-house gem.  Scott’s comedy celebrates fatherhood in general and presents a rainbow of situations in particular where parental love triumphs over adversity.  “Delivery Man” qualifies as a refreshing change-of-pace for Vince Vaughn.

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