Starring Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt, and Cobie Smulders. Rated PG.
Vince Vaughn has built an entire career on playing lovable slackers. In fact, he’s done the same part so many times that we can anticipate virtually all of his trademark moves. The coyly raised eyebrow, the sudden bursts of rapid speech, the little-boy grin. Even his wardrobe—baggy sweatpants, beat-up sneakers and archly hip T-shirts—has become a kind of uniform.
For all its stubborn charm, Vaughn’s typical portrayal of an overgrown kid who keeps screwing up is starting to wear about as thin as his hairline. That’s why it’s genuinely refreshing to see him dig a little bit deeper for his role in Delivery Man. He’s not really pushing the envelope here, but you can definitely feel him nudging it, and there are a few surprisingly tender moments as a result.
Vaughn plays Daniel Wozniak, a former sperm donor who discovers that he’s fathered 533 children. His problems start when he learns that 142 of his biological kids—most just coming into full adulthood—have launched a lawsuit demanding that his identity be revealed.
Against the advice of his slightly shady lawyer (a baby-faced Chris Pratt, who practically steals the movie) Daniel opens the court file detailing the lives of his assorted offspring. They’re an eclectic bunch, ranging from a basketball superstar to a severely handicapped young man. Moved, Daniel decides to risk becoming involved in their lives as a kind of undercover “guardian angel”.
If the plot seems familiar, it’s because Delivery Man is an American remake of 2011’s Starbuck, a French-Canadian film co-written and directed by Ken Scott. Returning to direct the English version of his screenplay, Scott shifts the backdrop from Montreal to Manhattan. Otherwise, the script is virtually unchanged.
For some, Delivery Man may lack the élan of the original. But, if this latest version gets a little too sentimental at times, it shares another kind of restraint. The committed cast—including a standout performance by Andrzej Blumenfeld as Daniel’s dad—skates over a potentially gaudy premise with a welcome sense of dignity.