November 20, 2013



DELIVERY MAN:  Not Even For Free – Vince Vaughn Tries Wholesomeness

DELIVERY MAN, alas, is Vince Vaughn’s Patch Adams.  Vaughn’s desire to try something new is understandable:  he’s in his mid-40s now, and his rat-a-tat schemer schtick has been running thin lately (his last real hit was Couples Retreat in 2009); at this rate, before long he’ll be signing a sitcom development deal.  Diving headlong into the waters of shameless sentimentality, though, wasn’t the right move.

Ken Scott’s serio-comedy is based on his own French-language Canadian film Starbuck, which it follows very closely.  Vaughn is David Wozniak, a goodhearted but hapless delivery guy for his family’s New York butcher shop who’s all but buried in gambling debts.  When his cop girlfriend (Cobie Smulders, with almost nothing to play) finds out she’s pregnant, she’s not at all sure he’s up to the responsibilities of fatherhood.  But oh boy, she has no idea:  David soon learns that the sperm he donated decades ago (under the code name “Starbuck”) to finance a luxury vacation for his immigrant parents has been used to father over 500 children, scores of whom are suing to find out his identity.

The heartgrabbing twist of Scott’s premise is that although David’s buddy and lawyer Brett (Chris Pratt, folding the movie into his pocket) warns him to stay the hell away from all his presumptive children, David can’t help himself from checking out their bios and getting involved in their lives.  He doesn’t reveal who he is, but serves as a guardian angel to them–freeing up an aspiring actor son to take an audition, making sure a troubled daughter gets to rehab, spending time with a disabled son and so on.  No matter who they are (even the creepy son who becomes the only one to catch on to his ruse, and semi-moves in with him), he loves them all, and even though they don’t know he’s their dad, they each come to appreciate and care about him.  Meanwhile, of course, improving their lives makes him a better son, boyfriend, employee and overall person.  (The whole movie is like a 103-minute version of the last scene of “A Christmas Carol,” except with a much less interesting Scrooge.)  It all climaxes when the conclusion of the court case coincides with–you’ve already guessed–David’s girlfriend going into labor.

There are people who will find themselves thoroughly moved by Delivery Man (hey, Patch Adams made plenty of money), but for many of us, its nonsensical plot and relentless feel-good sappiness will be painful.  Nothing in the script makes logical sense–it doesn’t even try–and there isn’t a person on screen who feels or acts like an actual human being, except for Pratt, whose continuing dry commentaries on the horrors of parenthood while his own children treat him like a pinata give the movie its only high points.  Vaughn, without his usual mannerisms to rely on, is just bland and seemingly weary, reciting the moral lessons David learns as though he’s going to be tested on them.  Aside from Pratt, the supporting cast (which includes Bobby Moynihan as one of David’s brothers and Britt Robertson as one of the daughters) doesn’t have the material to make much of an impression, although Andrzej Blumenfeld does a manful job of carrying the load of David’s father’s old-country wisdom, which is so weighty that it has to be conveyed with an Eastern European accent.

This is Scott’s first Hollywood movie, and while clearly the budgetary resources he was given were limited, he’s not able to disguise that at all, and the lifeless photography by Eric Edwards and production design by Ida Random look like what you’d see in a less-than-premium basic cable drama.

DreamWorks/Disney is releasing Delivery Man as counterprogramming to the expected massive box office haul of The Hunger Games sequel, but the odds are not in its favor.  If Vince Vaughn wants to broaden his appeal, the first step will be to find a better script.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."