DELIVERY MAN (Rated PG-13)
Vince Vaughn’s latest comedic effort, “Delivery Man,” is not likely to catch fire at the box office in the way Jennifer Lawrence’s latest chapter of “The Hunger Games” should connect with its built-in audience.
The lanky comic actor, writer and director usually lumps his screen personality into a state of arrested development. Vaughn’s either a charming rogue or likeable oaf, and usually a combination of the two.
As such, Vaughn has his persistent detractors and ardent admirers. I lean to the latter category, admiring his eagerness to please and his unrelenting quest to deliver laughs at every turn.
Like most comedians (think of Ben Stiller and Robin Williams, for example) who take chances, Vince Vaughn has his share of brilliant comedies and, well, the not-so-inspired attempts at lunacy.
On the one hand, there’s the Vince Vaughn of “Wedding Crashers” and “Dodgeball,” displaying dazzling strokes of comic genius, and then there are less fortunate forays such as “The Watch” and “Four Christmases.”
“Delivery Man” is arguably a middle-of-the-road endeavor, and as a result, the detractors will point out that Vaughn’s aging slacker routine is wearing a little thin. Sadly, there’s an argument to be made for that view.
The high-concept of “Delivery Man,” a remake of a little known Canadian film called “Starbuck,” seems tailored to the talents of Vaughn’s comic persona. And yet, Vaughn is asked to take some detours on his normal path as a comic actor.
Vaughn’s David Wozniak, a delivery man in the family’s New York City wholesale meat business, long ago donated his sperm to a fertility clinic when he desperately needed cash for work that didn’t require showing up on time.
Desperation resulted in David becoming the biological father of a staggering 533 children. Though he signed confidentiality agreements, 142 of the now-grown children have filed a class action suit to unmask the identity of a sperm donor only known as Starbuck.
Coinciding with his legal troubles is the additional revelation that David’s girlfriend Emma (Cobie Smulders) is pregnant. Thus, David becomes interested in cleaning up his act so as to be a responsible father and escape being a perpetual underachiever.
Working with his best friend and attorney of dubious legal talent Brett (Chris Pratt), David decides to fight the plaintiffs in the paternity suit so he can remain anonymous.
Brett is an interesting choice for legal counsel. Amusingly, he’s struggling with raising four small children on his own, a situation ripe for many of the film’s best comedic moments.
Going against the advice of counsel, David also decides to shadow many of his biological offspring, seeking to become, in his own words, their “guardian angel” and secret mentor or counselor.
Thus, he starts to awkwardly interact with a diverse group of young people, from encouraging a street performer with a guitar to helping an unhappy coffee shop waiter to take time off the job for an acting audition.
To his credit, David is very much affected by his furtive interactions with the kids. Most touching of all are the scenes with a seriously disabled person for whom David does simple yet effective things such as taking an excursion outside the confined space of an institution.
Even while fighting the lawsuit, David still finds himself growing closer to a disparate group of youngsters that range from a drug addict to an aspiring basketball star. In the process, he learns that he just might be ready to be the father to Emma’s child.
To a great extent, “Delivery Man” removes Vince Vaughn from his typical comic persona of the fast-talking wiseguy with an endless stream of put-downs and barbed comments. Yes, he’s still funny but often in a more subdued or restrained manner.
“Delivery Man” taps into sentimentality as David learns how to be a more humane and responsible person as the result of getting to know his progeny and understanding their need for a paternal connection.
Director Ken Scott, who performed the same duties for the Canadian version, delivers a feel-good movie in “Delivery Man,” steering Vince Vaughn into some uncharted waters.
Coming full circle from where this review began, it needs to be said that “Delivery Man” just might be the ticket for the demographic audience that is not the target for the adventures of Katniss in “The Hunger Games.”
Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.