Before sitting down for Ken Scott’s Delivery Man, I thought about Vince Vaughn — specifically, how he has coasted on an especially aggressive persona that he’s to run into the ground, long after its charms expired. Yet, he stopped trying to be taken seriously as an actor long, long ago. There’s a handful of “serious” films in his catalog, but as of late, it seems as if he’s just given up and resigned himself to the punishment of playing an aging variant on Trent from Swingers (1996) until the end of time. I’d almost respect the approach if his schtick weren’t so tiresome, seeing as how he’s spared us the Oscar-bait performances so many other limping comedic actors can’t seem to stay away from. All that said, this aspect might be the most interesting side of Delivery Man, a negligible comedy that takes Vaughn’s usual routine, ratchets it down a few notches and places it inside a kindhearted movie, making him palatable for once.
Unfortunately, the movie’s just not that good. It’s pleasant and mature and rarely obnoxious (a surprisingly difficult achievement in modern comedy), but it’s also too long and far too sentimental. The film is a remake of Starbuck, a 2011 Quebecois film also directed by Scott. Having never seen the original, I can’t say what’s changed here, besides a bigger musical budget (in a bit of dirty pool, Scott’s thrown a T. Rex song over the end credits in an obvious last-ditch effort to win me over). Here, Vaughn plays David, a general loser who’s a delivery man at his family’s meat-packing business, and who’s just knocked up his girlfriend (Cobie Smulders, The Avengers). Worse, he has somehow managed to rack up $80,000 in debt with some nondescript gangsters. On top of all of this, it turns out that a spree of 600 sperm donations under the pseudonym “Starbuck” in the ‘90s unfortunately led to him father 500 children, a hundred of whom are suing to find his identity.
Presumably out of sheer embarrassment (the film does a poor job of fleshing this out), David wants to remain anonymous. But this doesn’t keep him from being curious about his numerous kids. So instead of laying low, he decides to track down some of them, realizing he likes helping them out in small ways, while remaining a stranger. It’s in these moments that Delivery Man works best and is refreshingly sweet-natured in both content and comedy. The film has the right idea, often slipping in small, touching moments (the reason why, for instance, David donated so much of his seed is deftly handled), but Scott has a tendency to lose his way. When David’s emotionally needy son Viggo (Adam Chanler-Berat) figures out just who Starbuck is, it leads to a section of the film that gets bogged down with a lot of extraneous runtime dedicated to the film’s most obnoxious character. We’re also stuck with far too many precious moments and sentimental frivolities that take the film’s good nature a bit too far. As a whole, it makes the film feel slight, never quite achieving the grand emotional response it desperately wants. Delivery Man is bound to be remembered for little more than being the rarest of things — a watchable Vince Vaughn movie — and little else. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual content, some drug material, brief violence and language.
Playing at Regal Biltmore Grande, United Artists Beaucatcher