“Delivery Man” – A Flickcharter’s Movie Review
Delivery Man is writer/director Ken Scott’s American remake of his 2011 Australian film, Starbuck (which he co-wrote with Martin Petit). Here, Vince Vaughn plays a middle aged man named David Wozniack. David does things on a grand scale, whatever those things may be. He isn’t just in debt to some criminals; he’s $80 grand in debt to them. Twenty years ago, he didn’t just make an anonymous donation to a fertility clinic; he made 693 such donations, 533 of which produced children. Now, 142 of them want to know who their father is.
At its heart, Delivery Man is a comedy short film that tried too hard to become a feature film by morphing into melodrama. Every plot point is predictable, every joke obvious, and every character arc so simplistic that only the charm of the cast is able to keep the story engaging at all. To wit: When David is confronted with a packet of biographies of each of the 142 identity-seeking offspring, he begins to approach them one by one without revealing the nature of their relationship. This section of the film feels like a truncated tribute to My Name Is Earl, which is doubly disappointing because it’s a reminder we live in a world where that brilliant show never got a proper finale, but movies like this find a budget and a green light.
Understandably, the film does not afford time for David to forge a relationship with all 142 of his progeny, but the sampling the film does bother to present is utterly devoid of any depth whatsoever. In quick succession, David finds a son who plays for the Knicks; a son working as a barista who wants to be an actor; a busker son; and a son who gives tours of a historical home. Later, we meet a gay son, whose introduction is predicated on the notion that we will laugh at David’s surprise. Because, you know, it’s unexpected! It’s a curveball! Ha ha! Whatever will David make of having a (gasp!) gay son?!
Then there are the daughters. Kristen (Britt Robertson, one of the film’s bright spots), harangued by addiction to heroin that she can apparently overcome with the mere decision inspired by the good feelings of a stranger trusting her. Kristen is explicitly called a minor by a hospital nurse, which begs the question how she falls into the described age group of the rest of the Starbuck Kids, as well as where her mother is. (In fact, where are any of the mothers?)
Kristen still fares better than her sisters. A second daughter, played by Jessica Williams of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, is so undeveloped that her character merits not an actual name, but “African American Spa Worker” in IMDb’s credits page. A third – shown prominently in the trailer – simply walks down a street, not acknowledging the leering and verbal harassments slung at her by various men. David yells at one of the guys not to call her an “ice queen”, and that’s that. No connection is made with this young woman, played by Angela Bellotte, known in the credits simply as “Girl with Short Skirt”.
Perhaps the most frustrating is his son, Ryan (Sébastien René). Ryan has muscular dystrophy, and does not speak, or seem to communicate in any capacity acknowledged within the film. Vaughn’s scenes with him are genuinely touching, offering the tiniest glimpse into the challenges of caring for such a child, but here’s the problem: There’s no way that Ryan, isolated as he appears to be, had anything to do with seeking the identity of his biological paternity. No one ever even states that someone acting on Ryan’s behalf committed him to the class action lawsuit to learn Starbuck’s identity. In short, Ryan exists in the film to remind us of all the children like him – a noble ambition, surely – but so little thought went into creating his character that asking how he ever became involved in the actual plot can only be parried by an accusation that we have missed the point.
These are caricatures, more than characters, sloppily pasted into a feel-good-about-yourself story made for the most privileged demographic of all: the straight white male. Somewhere under the banalities is a well-intentioned message about men embracing fatherhood, but what comes across in Vaughn’s “two point” monologue in the finale is instead an exercise in egocentricity. His relationships with these young men and women have nothing whatsoever to do with getting to know them, and everything to do with proving that he’s a real grownup. David never realizes how misplaced his objective is, because the film itself is oblivious.
The lone hope for this film would be for a TV spinoff to really get into what day-to-day life for these characters really would be. The broad scope of Delivery Man suggests such rich storytelling territory. It’s a shame that Ken Scott had so little interest in exploring it.
How Delivery Man Entered My Flickchart
Even the Wind in the Willows part of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad was more entertaining than Delivery Man. Its Legend of Sleepy Hollow part laughs at the very idea of this match.
Delivery Man < Edward Scissorhands –> #1592
The story in Edward Scissorhands bores me, but its visual aesthetic is interesting and it features what may be the most beautiful score Danny Elfman has written to date. That’s enough to get the win over Delivery Man.
Delivery Man wins this by default, since my memory of What Planet Are You From? is hazy, and I recall feeling like I didn’t care if I ever saw it a second time.
Neither is particularly satisfying, but Life Without Dick has one key advantage over Delivery Man: It has Craig Ferguson as a mob boss.
Delivery Man < West Side Story –> #1400
It’s no secret I hate musicals, so it’s pretty telling that I’m picking West Side Story here. I’ve always loved the line, “No blades, no chains, no heat.” That’s one line more than I loved from Delivery Man.
I love me some ATHF, but the movie was tedious. Still, if I had to sit through another viewing of either of these, I’d rather it be the one with characters I like. Meatwad > No Meatwad.
Delivery Man > Brother Bear –> #1387
Delivery Man was dismal, but I don’t hate it the way that I hate Brother Bear for playing that Phil Collins song over what should be its emotional climax. Worst song placement in any movie, ever.
Delivery Man < King Ralph –> #1387
I can’t be entirely sure, but I think King Ralph was my first Peter O’Toole movie. It’s contrived, but it’s entertaining in its way. Delivery Man is just as contrived, but it isn’t particularly entertaining.
Delivery Man > Ghost Rider –> #1384
I was less disappointed by the movie that didn’t feature a character I already liked, which means that Ghost Rider loses here more than it means that Delivery Man wins.
Delivery Man < Red Riding Hoodwinked –> #1386
Do I really remember Red Riding Hoodwinked by title? Nope. But it’s a Looney Tunes short, and that’s inherently good enough for me to pick it over Delivery Man.
Delivery Man > Ghost Rider –> #1384
Yeah, I’m sure.
Delivery Man entered my Flickchart at #1384/1600