I have never been one that yearns for peace and quiet. That doesn’t mean that I am constantly looking to be in the midst of loud noises and chaos, but I’m not really a fan of total silence either. My theory is that this a holdover from my days in elementary school, where I had an open classroom layout; instead of individual classroom, our entire grade was in one giant room that used book cases and chalkboards to set the boundaries of the “rooms.” Don’t ask me – the 80s were a different time. Because of this set up, there was always some sort of background noise and I just got used to always having the quiet din of sound as the soundtrack of my days. I actually had trouble concentrating when I got to the high school, which had proper classrooms. The quietness was unnerving to me. This has carried over to my adult life: I fall asleep every night to my TV, set to a timer; if I wake up in the middle of the night and don’t immediately fall back to sleep, the TV goes back on. I have a hard time driving without the radio on and I listen to quiet classical music all day at work. It’s a delicate balance: it has to be loud enough that I can hear it, but not distracting enough that I get wrapped up in what I’m listening to instead of going about my daily life. If it’s too loud or too engrossing, it winds up being too disruptive and I get side tracked.
What does all of this have to do with Vince Vaughn’s new comedy Delivery Man? That’s a good question. In my opinion, Delivery Man would be the perfect movie to fold laundry to; it’s neither good nor bad and doesn’t require you to pay much attention to what is going on. It’s a movie that you can have running in the background while you do other things, as it only really necessitates you looking up every once in a while to perhaps smile or chuckle before returning to your tasks. Delivery Man is a film I could see myself falling asleep to (ha – there’s your quote for the movie poster).
Vaughn stars as David Wozniak, your generic underachieving man-child who simply cannot seem to get his life together. He works for the family butcher business as a delivery man (ah – see what they did there with the title?) and is deep in debt to some questionable people. His on-again, off-again gal pal (Cobie Smulders) has told him that she is pregnant, but that she plans to raise the child alone due to his apparent disinterest. He really doesn’t have a lot going for him and it is against this backdrop that he is approached by a lawyer that informs him that due to a mix up at the sperm bank where he a frequent donor 20 years ago, he is the biological father of 533 children. 140 of these children have found each other and have filed a lawsuit to reveal his identity, negating the confidentiality clause that he signed. David must decide whether he wants to come forward and, over the objections of his best friend/lawyer (Chris Pratt), he begins to secret immerse himself into the lives of some of his offspring. Will fatherhood, even in bulk, change David and force him to grow up? What do you think?
I like Vaughn, but I’ve been pretty skeptical of his career trajectory for quite some time. He was great in Swingers, Old School and Dodgeball, but he’s starting to age out of the ability to play the fast-talking, eternal frat boy. As he struggled to find a somewhat new path professionally, he has left a lot of pretty terrible movies in his wake; Fred Claus, The Break-Up, The Watch and The Dilemma were all pretty awful (and yes, I watched them all). My affinity for Vaughn wasn’t even enough to get me to watch The Internship, which has turd written all over it. I think Vaughn is very likeable in a slightly smarmy way, but he just hasn’t figured out how to pick roles that will let him do what he’s best at and be age appropriate.
I didn’t necessarily have high hopes for Delivery Man, but the concept was at least somewhat novel and I thought it would let Vaughn perhaps take a baby step in the right direction of his chosen occupation. I actually thought that Vaughn did a pretty good job in the film; the character isn’t necessarily likable in the beginning and you don’t think of Vaughn as a guy that does a lot of sincerity and emotional beats, but he managed to make it work. It’s not an Oscar-worthy performance, obvs, but I thought it was a step up from some of the drivel that he’s been peddling lately. You get the feeling that Vaughn really wants to make this work.
Unfortunately, there isn’t all that much for him to work with. Despite the promising concept of the film, I found the whole thing pretty half-baked and schmaltzy. The film wants to take you on a transformative character journey without actually putting any of the work in it; another reviewer said it best when they said it was “all plot and no character.” The other characters in the film aren’t really characters; they are simply plot points that David must encounter. Saying that they are two-dimensional would be giving them too much credit. The only actor that seems to make much out of what they are given is Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation) and I still found something a little off about his performance. I can’t quite but my finger on what it was; Pratt had some of the best lines of the film and I like him, but it just didn’t feel like a natural performance. Perhaps that was because he was working so hard to try to make something out of what he was given. Smulders (How I Met Your Mother) is completely wasted in the film, as she isn’t given much to do than alternatively look adoringly at and annoyed with David. I’m not sure why you are supposed to be rooting for the two of them; nothing in the film gives any indication that they make a good couple. I honestly think it would have been a better film without the pregnant girlfriend subplot.
Delivery Man is a remake of the French-Canadian film Starbuck (the alias David used when making donations) and I’ve seen several reviews that said that the U.S. movie is clearly inferior from the version made by our friends to the North. These people must just really like subtitles or really don’t like Vince Vaughn, because Delivery Man is almost a shot-for-shot recreation of the original film. The dialogue is almost identical and other than a few very minor changes (David likes basketball in this version instead of soccer), it is the same freaking movie. Starbuck may have a few fewer masturbation jokes and the sentimentality may not be dialed up quite as high, but for all intents and purposes I don’t get where people are finding one of these films vastly superior to the other. The issues that I have with Delivery Man are all present in Starbuck; if anything, the loyalty to the source material may have been one of the films hindrances.
Some other thoughts:
- One of the reasons that I was interested in the concept of this film was because of a documentary that I watched online as part of the Tribeca Film Festival. Donor Unknown may be smaller in scale, but examines the quest of the offspring of a single sperm donor in trying to locate their biological father. That documentary does a much better job of explaining why it is important to these half siblings to find “Donor 150” and each other. I don’t think the doc is out on DVD, but it’s worth checking out if you can find it.
- I saw Delivery Man several weeks ago at a screening that boasted a “live simulcast” with Vince Vaughn and Chris Pratt before the film. It didn’t amount to much – it only took a minute or two for them to say how much they enjoyed making the film (usually a pretty good sign that the film is a turkey) – but there was some technical difficulties that meant that the simulcast didn’t cut out as soon as they were done talking, which lead to an awkward few minutes of them staring at the camera without any prepared banter or any idea how long they would be live. It was fairly amusing.
- Beyond Vaughn, Pratt and Smulders, the rest of the supporting cast isn’t all that recognizable, save for Bobby Moynihan (SNL) as one of David’s brothers and Britt Robertson (Under the Dome) as one of the Starbuck offspring.
- I didn’t fact check this, but it seems like Vaughn plays a character of Polish descent fairly frequently. I may only notice this because I am half Polish.
Delivery Man is at least an interesting choice for Vaughn as he tries to figure out a new acting persona, but is really a pretty forgettable film. The concept had some potential, but the execution is too saccharine and fluffy to make any lasting impression. Delivery Man is an example of an adaptation that stays very close to the original and I don’t think that is necessarily a good thing. Definitely not the worst film that Vaughn has starred in (how’s that for a backhanded compliment?), but not worth your money at the theater. Delivery Man is the type of movie that you come across on FX and that you watch to kill two hours on a lazy Sunday. There are a few laughs to be had, but not enough to make this a movie worth actively seeking out. Delivery Man ultimately fails to deliver (sorry – I couldn’t help myself).
Delivery Man opens nationwide on Friday November 22nd. Starbuck is currently streaming on Netflix.