Blu-ray Review: Delivery Man

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Delivery Man is a Vince Vaughn-starring remake of the 2011 sperm donor comedy Starbuck. Ken Scott directed both films, but there’s a whole host of additional remakes from around the world. Apparently the concept struck a chord, and it’s an admittedly rich one. Middle-aged David Wozniak (Vaughn), under the codename “Starbuck,” donated so much sperm as a young man that he is the biological father of 533 young men and women. It was all done anonymously (hence the codename), but now 142 of his approximately 20-year-old offspring have banded together to sue the fertility clinic that distributed his sperm. They demand to know who fathered them.

Had director Scott (who also co-scripted, along with Martin Petit) mined a purely comic vein, he might’ve had something. Instead, he greatly overreaches in an attempt to tug the heartstrings and jerk tears. David is a ne’er do well schlub (does Vaughn play anything besides?), deeply in debt to loan sharks and screwing up the family-owned meat business. His cop girlfriend, Emma (Cobie Smulders), is pregnant with his child but doesn’t even want to acknowledge him as the father. When informed of the lawsuit, he hires his buddy, Brett (Chris Pratt), to launch a countersuit on the basis that the clinic revealing his identity would ruin his life.

Delivery Man 1 TMR.jpgThe plausibility of the kids’ class action suit and David’s countersuit are questionable, at best, considering the film isn’t especially concerned with laying out the particulars of the case. The clear goal here is to indulge in the opportunity to make a do-gooder saint out of David, who begins tracking down the 142 plaintiffs individually. Never mind the fact that these bright, educated young folks would certainly deduce his identity based on the fact that he has turned up in their lives, simultaneously, to help them in various ways. He claims to be the adoptive father of one of the 142, a severely disabled man who cannot speak and is isolated in an institution.

Despite the presence of a few alleged jokes, the movie never really establishes a comic tone. It’s a hash of unconvincing romance (Emma is insufferable, even before she finds out that the father of her unborn child is the now famous “Starbuck”), sitcom-level family interactions (though SNL veteran Bobby Moynihan acquits himself nicely as David’s brother), and dull courtroom drama.

Delivery Man 2 TMR.jpgOn a more offensive level, the message of Delivery Man seems to be that—above all else—the most important thing in a young person’s life is to know the identity of their biological father. We see absolutely nothing of these 142 individuals’ biological mothers and/or adoptive parents. Of course, we see very little of most of the 142 in the first place (to say nothing of the remaining 391 who aren’t participating in the class action suit). The ones who are allotted a character trait are stereotypes: the struggling actor working as a barista, the drug addict trying to get clean, and so on. All they have in common are their hearts of gold. Oh, and—save for one token overweight dude—they’re all good looking and photogenic.

But we learn utterly nothing about why any of them is obsessed with knowing the identity of the man who donated the stuff of life some 20 years before. As Brett (David’s lawyer) astutely states during the trial, without the confidentiality provided by the clinic, none of these people would even exist.

Delivery Man 3 TMR.jpgDelivery Man looks quite average for a mid-budget modern release, with a 1080p transfer framed at 2.40:1. Apparently shot on 35mm by cinematographer Eric Edwards, there’s a curiously dark look to this otherwise warm, cheery comedy. Fine detail is often swallowed up by the shadowy, high contrast look, but it all appears to be intentional. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is entirely serviceable for a film of this nature. It’s a talky movie and therefore rather front-centric, though music and occasional directional effects (i.e. Vaughn’s meat truck zooming away) enliven things periodically.

Special features are light, led by a 15-minute EPK piece called “Building Family.” The sentiments expressed by the actual actors portraying the offspring of Starbuck are as cheesy as those expressed by their onscreen characters. There’s a blooper reel (that cheats the format by including interview clips) and what amounts to a second blooper reel, “Vince Vaughn: Off the Cuff.” In both, we see evidence that no matter how restrained he might seem in the final cut, Vaughn approached his role with the same tired, motor-mouth shtick that he always does. Most of it was cut and is presented here in all its unfunny glory. There’s also a single deleted scene.

There’s no two ways about it: Delivery Man is an awful movie. Its jokes consistently fall flat, its sentiments fail to move on an emotional level, and it’s entirely pointless on a philosophical level. Try as it may to explore the meaning of parenthood and the importance of supporting one’s children, it doesn’t even justify its own premise. David Wozniak owes nothing to any of these people, not on a personal level and not on a legal level. A more farcical (or perhaps satirical) approach could’ve uncovered the potential humor behind the setup.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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