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"DELIVERY MAN"
(2013) (Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Dramedy: A delivery truck driver decides to change his life upon learning that his donations to a sperm bank decades ago resulted in hundreds of children being born, with many of them now wanting to learn his identity.
PLOT:
David Wozniak (VINCE VAUGHN) is a delivery truck driver who delivers meat for the company run by his father, Mikolaj (ANDRZEJ BLUMENFELD), where he works alongside his more responsible brothers, Victor (SIMON DELANEY) and Alesky (BOBBY MOYNIHAN). Desperate to make money to repay a substantial sum that he owes some thugs, David's life is less than ideal and he's generally considered unreliable by most everyone, including his cop girlfriend, Emma (COBIE SMULDERS), who's learned she's pregnant by him.

His virility really comes into play when he learns that his plentiful donations to a sperm bank decades ago -- under the pseudonym "Starbuck" -- resulted in the birth of 533 children, 142 of which want to know his identity that has otherwise remained anonymous since then. David's longtime friend, single father of four and lawyer, Brett (CHRIS PRATT), wants to make sure that latter condition remains in force. That goal is jeopardized, however, when David can't keep himself from opening a package containing printout sheets that list all of the kids he sired.

Without informing them about who he really is, he tries to peek into their lives. That includes aspiring actor Josh (JACK REYNOR); young heroin addict Kristen (BRITT ROBERTSON); Ryan (SEBASTIAN RENE) who's institutionalized with cerebral palsy or something similar, and Viggo (ADAM CHANLER-BERAT), a needy young man who latches onto David once he figures out that he's his biological father. Trying to be something of a guardian angel to them and others, David jeopardizes his chances of remaining anonymous -- that includes legal action from the other side to reveal his identity -- all while keeping that secret from Emma.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
Considering the real or at least perceived rise in fertility problems among those wishing to have kids as well as the still fairly high unemployment rate, it wouldn't surprise me if there's been an uptick at so-called "sperm banks," especially considering said donors are paid per donation. Yet, I wonder how many of those men even stop to think about the resultant children they end up siring along the way.

To be perfectly clear, I'm not one of those men nor have I lost any sleep pondering those very issues of anonymous fatherhood. In fact, I've never really thought about it until having just seen "Delivery Man," a dramedy where the related seminal plot catalyst happened two decades before the story begins. And that's when David Wazniak (Vince Vaughn) was apparently quite the active sperm donor back in the 1990s, having made nearly 700 deposits over the course of a few years.

His genetic material was apparently so good that the fertility clinic used it to the point of creating over 500 children, with nearly a third of them now joining together to learn their biological father's true identity. Not surprisingly, the news of having fathered the equivalent of an entire small town throws him for a loop.

Yet, while his longtime friend lawyer (Chris Pratt) -- and harried father of four -- says they can hold off the release of his name, David decides to visit some of his young adult kids anonymously to see the results of his actions. He does so all while trying to prove to his cop girlfriend (Cobie Smulders) that he could be a good father to their unborn child, despite otherwise being deemed unreliable by most everyone in his life.

That certainly sounds like your typical high concept story idea that's usually spawned within the studio movie machine as an easy to grasp plot that's equally easy to sell to viewers. Perhaps to the surprise of some but not those used to Hollywood repurposing films from other countries, this one didn't originate somewhere within the boundaries of L.A. Instead, it's the American remake of a 2011 Canadian film by the name of "Starbuck."

While I've never seen that flick -- which was directed by Ken Scott from a script he co-penned with Martin Petit -- it's been reported that this new version -- also directed by Scott who takes sole credit for the script this time -- fairly closes follows the original in terms of plot as well as tone. While it admittedly has some funny, nice and even touching moments, there's just something that often feels off about the overall offering as a whole.

It's obviously designed as a feel good sort of movie where an aimless man-child sort of character sees the light, learns to grow up and starts to take responsibility for his past and current actions. And it's clearly a film about celebrating life, family and how every person is unique in their own special way.

Yet, and despite those good intentions, parts of the film are far too gooey in their sentimentality and manipulative qualities (especially regarding Sebastian Rene -- the only performer reprising his role -- playing a disabled young man whose condition brings out the best in the protagonist). Others clumsily have the father trying to peek inside the lives of his kids and that borders on coming off like a creepy stalker and thus certainly don't play realistically in terms of the kids' reactions to this sudden stranger in their lives.

In my opinion, a few script tweaks here and there (A quick but not best example: Having him lie that he's a documentary filmmaker and is randomly selecting people to tell their tales, etc.) likely could have remedied much of that. Similarly, an entire but only occasionally touched upon subplot regarding some thugs wanting their money from David (including briefly torturing him in a filled bathtub) could have been jettisoned with no ill-effect. Meanwhile I could have done with a cutting down of the plethora of montages that give the pic the impression that Scott and company took the easy way out of telling their tale rather than digging deeper and more insightfully into the subject matter.

All of that said, parts of the film still worked for me and even touched my heart and soul on occasion, despite fully realizing the manipulation at play. Viewer reaction will likely wildly vary to such material. The performances are decent but not outstanding (Vaughn just does a slight variation on the sort of characters he typically plays), although Pratt is something of a hoot playing the harried father and far-from-slick lawyer.

I just wish the collective effort worked as well and/or as consistently as those individual moments. In the end, "Delivery Man" sort of feels like it was birthed before its gestation period was complete and everything was as fully formed as needed to be. Certain to divide viewers and some critics between falling for the material and gagging on the schmaltz, the pic rates as a 5 out of 10.




Reviewed November 14, 2013 / Posted November 22, 2013


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