Vince Vaughn has been a stand out character in many memorable films (Old School, Anchorman and Zoolander to name a few) and a solid co-star (Swingers, Wedding Crashers) but has struggled to really prove he can be the star of the show. Dodgeball for instance, probably his best prior example as the leading man, had a huge (and fantastic) supporting cast to carry him. So if you’re apprehensive about a film where Vaughn is clearly the lead you are not alone. Surprisingly, Vaughn nails his role in Delivery Man and makes it a genuinely funny and heartwarming comedy despite the ludicrous concept (and overwhelmingly generic trailer).
Based on the original French-Canadian film, Starbuck (directed by Ken Scott who also wrote and directed Delivery Man), David (Vince Vaughn) is a shiftless delivery man for his father’s deli/meat market. Broke, in debt to some bad folks and on the ropes with his girlfriend Emma (Cobie Smulders), David comes home to a big surprise. He is the biological father to 533 children… well young adults really. Having donated sperm, multiple times, to a clinic roughly twenty years ago for reasons explained later, the clinic over-used his “donation” and now 142 of his biological children are suing said clinic/himself to reveal his identity. Things really start to change though once David decides to start secretly meeting his kids and be their “guardian angel.”
As I said before, absolutely ludicrous.
Here is the thing; it is laugh out loud funny and full of a surprisingly large amount of heart. This isn’t just a series of slapstick jokes or opportunities for Vaughn to dispense sarcastic one-liners (though there are plenty), which is quite honestly what I expected it to be. The story is really about finding meaning in one’s life and being part of something much bigger (not to mention the themes of fatherhood). David undergoes a transformation over the course of the film that Vaughn presents incredibly well and the writing nails it (though in fairness it should, as it is the second time it has been adapted to film by the same director/writer).
The primary reason this film works so well is how perfectly it depicts David as kind of a slime ball in the beginning. For the first portion of the film he is very much a person you would not want to know. Yes, there are laughs to be had but the first portion of the film feels very generic and relies heavily on the supporting cast, especially Brett (Chris Pratt), David’s best friend and lawyer. Without Brett (and Chris Pratt’s scene stealing performance of him), the first half hour or so of the film would be painful to watch. It is at this point that David starts to meet some of his children, (without them knowing he is their father) and starts to become likeable. In many ways Vaughn was made for this role; playing total sleaze bag to charming idiot in about twenty minutes. The writing and placement of a few key back stories in the film help to cement the performance. We learn some of David’s motivations just as we start to like him and it just works incredibly well.
David’s various interactions with the kids is the real meat (and heart) of the film. Philomena, which also releases this Friday (11/22/13) highlighted a mother’s ability to love a son she never really knew (which is a story we’ve seen before), meanwhile Delivery Man shows us a similar theme but from the point of view of the father – which isn’t explored nearly as often. David feels an immediate connection to the kids that are suing him to know his identity and feels responsible for them and even starts to put them ahead of himself. One kid in particular really forces him to reevaluate everything; I’d say more but it is simply too big of a spoiler. As the legal case builds, his relationship with his girlfriend reaches a peak and his money problems get pretty serious; David must ultimately make a lot of choices that will forever affect his life and the lives of many others.
Delivery Man is far from a perfect film. The first act is at times hard to watch. It is very standard “outrageous plot based Hollywood comedy” in full mediocrity (and depends on a solid supporting cast for survival). Picking up quickly though, it goes on to offer something far more interesting in terms of story and honest character development. We begin to laugh with David rather than just at him and that ludicrous plot starts to feel a little bit more grounded. Though it sidesteps the question everyone will be asking; have any of these 500+ children all living in the New York area ever unknowingly dated one another? Vince Vaughn won’t prove to everyone that he can be a lead with this one but he will convince plenty of doubters to get off the fence. As sincere as it is witty, Delivery Man is a comedy not afraid to be a little sentimental when it counts.
Delivery Man arrives in theaters November 22nd.
Final Rating: 7.5/10
CBR Break Down:
How it was viewed: Theater
Running time: 103 min
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders
Directed by: Ken Scott
Recommend viewing: Where isn’t that important; maybe take your dad though.
Current price: N/A
Why you should see it: They pull off a ridiculous plot idea.
Why you shouldn’t see it: Your biological father won’t reveal his identity to you… even though he’s still married to your mom and you lived with him for 18 years.