16 January 2014


In all fairness, Delivery Man is the least terrible Vince Vaughn film I have seen in years. You could put his recent filmography through a centrifuge to try and look for some combination of him and a toxic co-star, or him and a toxic script, but the only thing all of Vince Vaughn's recent flops actually have in common, is Vince Vaughn. With that in mind, this at least gets points for not starring Adam Sandler, who tends to drag bad scripts and bad co-stars with him.

Vaughn plays Dave Wozniak, a "very, very bad meat delivery guy" (his words, not mine) who finds himself 80 grand deep in debt to a bunch of properly bad people. He's recklessly irresponsible, flouting his job and responsibilities to his police officer girlfriend Emma, who has just told him that she's pregnant. The dad-shock multiplies by around five-hundred-fold, when he discovers that a clinic, to which he made several hundred sperm donations, has been quite liberally using his stock. Worse still, he is now the target of a class-action lawsuit to make him reveal his identity to hundreds of his biological children.

Had it been Sandler in the starring role, there's no doubt that this would have been accordingly more immature- we've sadly already seen what he did with the laugh-a-minute topic of statutory rape, and it's not tough to imagine this being far more arch and puerile than it has turned out. Some might not realise that director Ken Scott has remade his own film, 2011's French-Canadian comedy-drama Starbuck here, but now that I've told you about it, you can see how the plot summaries on Wikipedia (containing SPOILERS, obviously) are almost identical. Scott's English-language remake has a more dramatic timbre than the original, but perhaps he really should have remade this as a TV series.

On the surface of it, it's a perfect premise for a running sitcom, and one which has been kind of road-tested by My Name Is Earl and even Quantum Leap. Once Dave finds out he has these children, he's given profiles on the 100-plus people that want to find out who he is, and he sets out to look after them and help them in small, but meaningful ways, without exposing his real identity. That's the stuff that long-running series are made of, but on the big screen, it has no room to resonate. If you have to remake it in English, why not explore new ground with it?

At the same time, the 104 minute running time of the remake feels inordinately long, with some focus given to certain offspring, and many others compressed into montages. If you have the televisual luxury of focusing on a kid a week, you can even watch Dave's character develop right alongside that. Adding weight to an admittedly tentative argument is the fact that the film's best two supporting characters are played by actors most famous for their small-screen work- Chris Pratt is Dave's buddy, a lawyer turned stay-at-home-dad who gets all of the biggest laughs, and Cobie Smulders is criminally underused as long-suffering girlfriend Emma.

But as in so many other bad Vince Vaughn films, the weak link is our leading man. While Pratt knocks every comedic beat out of the park, time after time, Vaughn gurns and blathers his way through his own funny scenes. He seems far more engaged during the dramatic scenes, including those in which Dave discovers that one of his offspring is addicted to drugs, and another is permanently hospitalised, due to severe cerebral palsy. Smulders isn't in the movie long enough for the obvious lack of chemistry between Dave and Emma to really sink the proceedings, but the only real consideration of her character takes place with far too little movie left to give her any time for a sensible and entirely justified reaction to all of this.

In fact, it's the treatment of her character that makes you wonder where the hell all the mothers are in this film. Vaughn even straight up says at one point that it's down to the father and the father alone to decide if he's going to be in his kid's life, and apparently none of the biological mothers or adoptive parents are around to argue. Without spoiling too much, this has what should be a sentimentally satisfying ending, but Dave's progression in attitude, from unreliable everyman to emotionally domineering father figure, just left me wondering if he would later become the leader of a cult comprised of his legion of children. There's even a pivotal shot of him standing above them all, and the misjudged tone makes it feel a little sinister.

Honestly, I wanted to like this one, but even in spite of the things I did like, Delivery Man turned out to be a dry, overlong dramedy. Chris Pratt steals the show, drawing some genuinely big laughs, but he's more like the comic relief, which would be fine if only Vince Vaughn was capable of vesting as much dramatic heft in the lead character as the script sometimes asks. But in the end, the uber-generic title says it all. Instead of expanding upon the original, Scott has transferred it wholesale to the English language market, and it feels as if he's left a lot of potential on the table; it's a film in search of a sitcom.

Delivery Man is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Delivery Man, why not share your comments below? We've been hard on Vaughn, but seriously, let's be thankful that it wasn't Sandler.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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