Though almost completely the same as its original incarnation Starbuck, the comedy Delivery Man manages to actually be a slight improvement on the formula. Part of that has to do with a brisker feeling pace from returning filmmaker Ken Scott, while the other step up is from Vince Vaughn, who not only matches the charm of the original’s star Patrick Huard while also giving us one of his more complete performances to date. Scott and co-writer Martin Petit haven’t really done much to their original story besides translating it into English and moving it to Brooklyn from Quebec, but since I liked Starbuck (as you can see in this review of mine here from earlier this year), there’s plenty to continue to like here with this film. Yes, Delivery Man kind of doesn’t need to exist, but since it’s here, it’s hard not to enjoy it. Vaughn, Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders, and more get to do some mostly solid work, while there’s more emotion on display than you’d expect. My eyes were dry all throughout Starbuck, but somehow towards the end of Delivery Man I choked up a bit. Consider that a strong selling point too. This isn’t a transformational movie at all, but it’s a good one.
For David Wozniak (Vaughn), he’s always gone through life as a likable underachiever. His family puts up with his disappointments because they love him, as so has his girlfriend Emma (Smulders), though when she finds out she’s pregnant, she’s inclined to kick David to the curb and go it alone. As if that’s not enough pressure on him, he’s also in major debt to some shady characters, which leads to a visit he expects is from someone there to break his thumbs. Instead, it’s a lawyer (Damian Young) informing him that the fertility clinic he donated sperm to two decades ago has some news. Apparently, his anonymous donations (under the fake name “Starbuck”) were the only samples given out for a period of time, so go figure…he’s fathered over 500 children (533 to be precise). What’s more, 142 of them have filed a lawsuit seeking to know his identity. David’s best friend/lawyer Brett (Pratt) advises him to counter-sue, as well as to not seek out these kids either. David’s paternal instincts kick in though, and he begins to secretly interact with them, functioning as a guardian angel of sorts. When the case picks up steam though, his identity might be on the verge of being compromised. Will he come forward? Will Emma keep him around? Those who know the story know the outcome, but it’s a crowd pleaser, remember that.
I was pretty impressed by Vince Vaughn’s performance here. While still solidly in his comedic wheelhouse, Vaughn gets to mature along with the character, something he’s rarely been given the chance to do of late. In particular, he’s very good in the third act, when the drama begins to come into play more so than the comedy. He’s not outstanding or anything, but he’s notably good. Chris Pratt gets to bounce off of Vaughn and they display amusing chemistry, though he does kind of come off a bit one note, though that’s a function of the character much more than Pratt’s performance. Cobie Smulders is solid but under used, especially during the middle portions of the movie. Her scenes with Vaughn towards the end work very well though. In terms of David’s children, the memorable performance comes from up and comer Britt Robertson, though she also doesn’t get a ton to work with. Other supporting players include Bruce Altman, Andrzej Blumenfeld, Simon Delaney, Bobby Moynihan, Dave Patten, Adam Chanler-Berat, Jack Reynor, and Sébastien René. It’s Vaughn you notice most though, as you might expect.
It’s very odd to me that Ken Scott would choose to come back and basically do the same work all over again, even down to the way the sets look. Still, he’s just as solid here as he was there in terms of his direction, and the same goes for the script he wrote with Martin Petit. Scott probably could have pursued other opportunities, but this story still speaks to him. He and Petit don’t try to fix what wasn’t broken, and while certain missed opportunities (a lot is done via montage) remain, including a lack of true laugh out loud moments, this is still a very pleasing motion picture at its core. The one thing they do improve on though is the emotional center. The end is way more touching than you’d expect, take it from me.
In the end, I’m not sure how necessary it is to see Delivery Man if you’ve already seen Starbuck, but if you’re adverse to subtitles, consider this a gift to you. You can now see a clever little high concept comedy without having to read. I hope that’s not a problem for most of you, but if it is, it is. Delivery Man is worth checking out, especially if you dig on Vince Vaughn. This isn’t a flick you’ll remember your whole life, but it will make for an enjoyable hour and 45 minutes in a darkened theater…
–Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!