“Delivery Man” has been out for a couple of weeks, but it’s still close to the prototypical “holiday film” — a feel-good comedy with an emphasis on what might be called “family values,” if that phrase hadn’t become so polluted over the years. Starring Vince Vaughn in a role slightly more demanding than his usual fast pattering, overgrown manchild, good buddy character, the movie wants to be taken seriously about, well, being taken seriously. It is funny and sentimental by fits and starts, not entirely successful, yet not fully a dud.
Writer/director Ken Scott tries a remake of his French Canadian flick “Starbuck,” titled after the central character’s cover name. His real name, David Wozniak, would be a bit dangerous to use, since it could get him into legal messes. See, David (Vaughn) made over 600 deposits in a sperm bank during three heroically masturbatory years in the early ‘90s. Now, all these years later, some of the fruits of his labors (142 to be exact) are bringing suit against him to reveal his identity. Mostly 20-somethings, they apparently have no mothers, at least none that the film shows, and want to know who their “real” Dad is. They are almost all an attractive bunch, who find themselves a new “family” in the course of the legal action.
But David is not much of a father, his sperm count notwithstanding. Even driving the delivery truck for the family butcher shop seems to be too much responsibility for him to handle. His long-term girlfriend, Emma, played fetchingly by Cobie Smulders, is pregnant by him but doesn’t want him around, given his reluctance to take on the serious job of parenting. His brothers warn him about fatherhood, as does his (sort of) lawyer friend, Brett, played by Chris Pratt, and the only consistently funny character in the movie. The wifeless father of four kids himself, Brett advises David to get a lawyer but under no circumstances to reveal himself as the biological dad.
Being who he is, David does learn their identities and begins to interact with them, though without telling them why. He even stumbles into a meeting where most of them are gathered to discuss their, um, class action suit against him. When the story hits the papers and the TV news — and the late night comedians — he doesn’t tell the disapproving Emma he’s the object of all this attention. He shows up at a group campout/picnic they organize, claiming he’s the adoptive father of one of them, a severely handicapped young man.
Did I mention that David also has a serious debt problem, with the attendant thugs threatening both him and his family if he doesn’t come up with the cash? In short, his life is impossibly screwed up, though the script takes pains to show that he is a compassionate, basically good guy. This being comedy, the mess all sorts out; the story even has the classical comic ingredients of music and the promise of new life and restored harmony at the conclusion, a sort of grand Kumbaya moment.
Rated “PG-13” for language and sexual frankness, “Delivery Man” contains an implicit warning about casting your seed around too broadly, though the fantasy premise of the film undercuts the potential seriousness of that message. If they ignore the giant holes in the plot and are willing to sit through some dragging, repetitive spots in the first half, Vaughn fans will probably enjoy this latest, somewhat heavier addition to his lightweight body of work.