Directed by Ken Scott. Starring . Written by Cobie Smulders, Vince Vaughn, Britt Robertson, Chris Pratt, Ben Bailey, Bobby Moynihan. Written by Ken Scott and Martin Petit.
In the early 1990s, David Wozniak (played by Vince Vaughn) made 693 deposits at a sperm bank over a two-year period, earning $20,000+ in the process. Somehow, his “highly potent” sperm made its way to hundreds of recipients; two decades later, David learns that he is the father of 533 now-adult children.
He finds this out because 142 of the children have got together to file a lawsuit against the sperm bank that would force them to reveal the identity of their father. While David signed confidentiality agreements that would prevent this from happening – which are being contested in court – he’s faced with the moral dilemma of revealing himself to his biological children.
It’s high-concept premise, but at the heart of Delivery Man is an interesting question: do the kids have a right to know who their father is? The attorney for the children makes an interesting point: while David and recipients of his donation have confidentiality agreements with the sperm bank to protect themselves, the kids – to whom this decision is the most relevant – have had their rights completely sidestepped.
David’s attorney and friend Brett (Chris Pratt) raises an interesting counter-argument: had David been aware of the fact that his identity might be revealed in the future, he may have never donated – these children may have never existed.
But while the legal stuff is the most compelling aspect of Delivery Man (for me, at least), it’s mostly relegated to a 10-minute climatic sequence. Most of the film focuses on the moral issue, as David pulls a few of the files that have been sent to him and visits some of his children, unaware of who he is: they range from professional basketball player to recovering drug addict to aspiring actor to a severely disabled young man in an assisted living facility, unable to communicate (given the disability, how did he get involved in the lawsuit, I wondered.)
David also has problems of his own. He’s a disappointment to himself and those around him: his immigrant father (Andrzej Blumenfeld) and brothers (Simon Delaney and Bobby Moynihan), who he works with at the family’s butcher shop. His girlfriend Emma (Cobie Smulders) drops a bombshell on him: she’s pregnant, and prepared to raise the child by herself. For good measure, he’s also in debt with the mob.
If this doesn’t sound like your typical Vince Vaughn comedy, that’s because it’s not: Delivery Man is a schmaltzy, easy-going drama with some lightly comedic elements (mostly relegated to the scenes between Vaughn and Pratt). Pratt, by the way, is excellent here, not only serving as the much-needed comic relief, but also carrying the movie during its courtroom climax.
There’s just one real issue here: plot and pacing. The film meanders along without a clear goal or anything for the audience to grab hold of (beyond the vague idea of Vaughn’s character bettering his life), and feels much, much longer than its stated runtime of 105 minutes. The ending, in particular, drags on; we all knew where this thing was going.
But the premise is good enough to sustain the film through its lulls. No surprise, then, that Hollywood has turned it around so quickly: Delivery Man is a remake of a 2011 French-Canadian film called Starbuck (which is the name David signed himself as at the sperm bank), unseen by me (interestingly enough, a French-language remake, Fonzy, has also been released this year.)
Ken Scott, the director and co-writer of Starbuck, has returned to helm this Hollywood remake (it’s a surprisingly common thing: see also Georges Sluzier’s The Vanishing or Ole Bornedal’s Nightwatch, to name a couple of examples). If nothing else, Scott can be thanked for the low-key, informal presentation (this almost feels like an indie at times), which is a welcome reprieve from the usual in-your-face mainstream comedy.
Also opening this week: