Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Delivery Man

DELIVERY MAN (Ken Scott, 2013)

At a glance David Wozniak (Vince Vaughn) is no one’s idea of someone well-equipped for parenthood. He’s an irresponsible middle-aged man who can’t help but make bad decisions, which explains why he’s deeply in debt to a loan shark and is trying to come up with the cash by growing marijuana with hydroponics in his apartment. David has a steady job driving the delivery truck for the family meat market in Brooklyn, but he’s better at being liked by the clientele than making his drop-offs in a timely manner. His unreliability also affects his relationship with girlfriend Emma (Cobie Smulders). When he shows up at her place late one night, she informs him that she’s pregnant but isn’t sure she wants him involved with the child.

Although David begins to like the idea of being a dad, in DELIVERY MAN he soon finds out that he’s already the biological father to 533 children. From 1991 to 1994 he made nearly seven hundred donations to a fertility clinic while using the pseudonym Starbuck. His specimens proved to be potent and popular. Now many of the offspring want to know his identity and are filing a class-action suit against the clinic to break the confidentiality agreement.

A packet of his biological kids’ profiles is among the paperwork David receives regarding the case. His friend and lawyer Brett (Chris Pratt) advises against opening the envelope, but David’s curiosity gets the better of him. Reading the profiles become like eating potato chips: he can’t stop at just one. Although David doesn’t want to reveal who he is, he starts tracking down these previously unknown children and helping them as a guardian angel of sorts.

Although DELIVERY MAN director and co-writer Ken Scott is remaking his Canadian film STARBUCK, the material often feels half-formed than overworked. David’s qualities shift depending on how the film insists he is to be viewed rather than from him actually changing. He’s introduced as being a perpetually mistake-prone and inconsiderate man-child until he cottons to the idea of being a dad, yet information later comes to light of generosity and sweetness that his family has always acknowledged. Side characters appear and are dismissed without a second thought. Emma fades into the background until DELIVERY MAN needs an occasional reminder that David is also reproducing in a more traditional way. A subplot about toughs coming to claim the money David owes them is so haphazardly integrated that it might as well be excised. Brett’s situation with a household of four rambunctious little ones could use a bit more clarity, but Pratt’s amusing interactions with the kids distract from questions about his life’s vagueness.

Vaughn hits some nice notes, particularly in scenes with an institutionalized son, as he struggles with his fears for the well-being of all these kids he never knew he had and thrills at their successes. Although the process yields instant answers for David, the nervousness over what fate may hold for his children reflects any parent’s desires that everything will work out. With so many kids sharing his genes David’s brood covers the gamut, yet he learns that loving each one is more important than whether they fulfill his hopes and expectations.

DELIVERY MAN sets up as though it might be a farce yet resists the comedic possibilities in the David’s stalker-like activities to get closer to his unfamiliar children. Instead the film plays as a mostly sentimental portrait of imminent fatherhood. Still, for as much as DELIVERY MAN wishes to confirm that David has the makings of a good father, Scott often undermines such thinking. A poorly conceived scene mines for laughs as David vacillates over whether he should commit a junkie teenage daughter for care or sign for her release from the hospital. She says she can quit if she wants and claims to be starting a department store job the next morning, so she doesn’t need rehab to get her life in order. While the scenario has a happy ending, David’s decision demonstrates he’s far from the level-headed guy the film says he is and always has been.

Grade: C

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