David Wozniak (Vince Vaughn) drives a delivery truck for his family’s meat wholesale business in New York City. It doesn’t demand much of him and that’s good because he doesn’t have that much to give. David would like to be successful but just doesn’t have the drive and imagination to get it done. He has just enough ambition to get himself into trouble when he borrows $80,000 from a loan shark to invest in a technology start-up. Naturally, it fails and David is desperate for cash; so desperate, he begins growing pot in his apartment but all the plants die. David is dating a New York City police officer named Emma (Cobie Smulders) but she doesn’t see a future with him and wants to break up, even though she is pregnant with his baby. Returning home after work one day, David finds an attorney standing in his apartment. He tells David he represents a sperm clinic David made over 600 deposits to when he was in college. Because of a problem at the clinic, every woman for a period of time was impregnated with David’s sperm. He is the biological father of 533 kids and over 140 of them have filed a class action lawsuit to find out the identity of the donor. David approaches his best friend and lawyer Brett (Chris Pratt) to represent his interests and keep the kids from finding out his identity. Brett agrees and gives David a large envelope filled with profiles of all his children. Brett tells him not to open it but he does and pulls out one profile discovering one of his children plays pro basketball for the New York Knicks. David and Brett go to Madison Square Garden and watch him play. He takes out another profile and finds a son who is a struggling actor working in a coffee shop. David goes to the shop and covers the counter while his son goes on an audition. Another profile is of a daughter who is abusing drugs. David, pretending to be a pizza delivery man, arrives just in time to prevent her from committing suicide by overdose. He keeps pulling profiles and going to visit the kids, keeping his identity a secret. Finding out more about his unknown children makes David long for a family of his own and he sets out to prove to Emma he would make a good father and partner.
“Delivery Man” is a movie I shouldn’t like. It is lazy, taking the easiest pathways to the happiest of endings. It frequently doesn’t make any sense with story threads dropped in wherever they are needed to further along a plot that doesn’t keep track of time or seem to care how silly it is. Despite all that’s wrong with the film, I couldn’t help but fall in a little bit of love with the premise and all the sweetness the movie dumps on the audience like so much concrete.
“Delivery Man” tries very hard to make everyone on screen likable. All of David’s family, while initially a bit crude and unsympathetic, is a big hearted teddy bear with no apparent faults. His father is nearly a living saint who puts up with a great deal of disappointment from David. With the exception of two of the kids who are both abrasive and one who is handicapped, all David’s children seem to be completely normal and well adjusted. With the exception of the loan sharks who come to collect their money and act like they are going to drown David in the bath tub, everyone is decent and wonderful. I’m not sure about you, but my world doesn’t look anything like that. Granted, it’s a movie and we only meet the people the screenwriter wants us to meet but still, someone in that group should be somewhat obnoxious and unlikable. Even when we meet David, he’s not a bad guy, just lost. The closest anyone comes to a real character is Cobie Smulders’ Emma. She actually seems the most grounded and honest person in the film but that is compromised when she takes David back with little evidence that he’s changed. We also see less of Emma than any other major character in the film.
David also doesn’t face nearly the kind of consequences that someone in a similar situation would face. All the children in the lawsuit love the idea of meeting their father and hold no ill will towards him. Somewhere in that group of people must be at least a few who are angry and want an explanation or want to punish him somehow. Instead, we are treated to a kind of Kumbayah feeling of nothing but love and respect. The movie lets David off the hook for every bad decision he makes. He also avoids trouble for the bad decisions he makes on behalf of his kids as he’s visiting them. He agrees to not force his drug-using daughter into rehab because she might lose her new job. It seems when she says she can quit on her own, she actually can even though this flies in the face of everything we know about drug abuse. He takes over the coffee shop for the struggling actor son so he can go on an audition. The boy gets fired but he also gets the part so David comes out a winner again. The movie takes every shortcut it can to aim the story towards the inevitable happy ending. That’s lazy film making. It also happens to work, at least for me.
The movie is a joy to watch for Vince Vaughn’s performance. He appears to be leaving his “bro” movie roles behind him and is trying to branch out into more mature roles. While “Delivery Man” isn’t exactly a modern masterpiece of drama and comedy, it does have some warm and emotional moments. I know these are designed to suck us into the good feelings the movie wants us to have for David and his kids but it is effective. Another great performance is from Adam Chanler-Berat as one of David’s kids who figures out who he is. Playing a character named Viggo, Chanler-Berat is an annoying vegan nebbish who has quotes from numerous philosophers ready to fire off as weapons to use against anyone who might not agree with his views. When we first meet Viggo, we want to throttle him so he’ll shut up. He eventually grows to become a tolerable then lovable character as he gets to know his father. It’s an odd dynamic that adds a tiny amount of drama to the story. Chris Pratt is also great as David’s friend Brett. Pratt has amazing comic timing and the kind of childlike face that makes you like him right away. The interactions with his kids are also very well done and add a kind of skewed but homey feeling to the character.
“Delivery Man” is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual content, some drug material, brief violence and language. The sexual content and thematic elements are kind of intertwined as both consist of various references to masturbation. While we don’t see the drug use it is obvious it is going on with a box of paraphernalia next to a young woman who appears to have overdosed. Violence is limited to the loan sharks roughing up David. Foul language is scattered.
“Delivery Man” is manipulative and unbelievable. The main character is able to sleepwalk through his problems and escapes every situation largely unscathed. The script tends to trivialize incidents and events that in the real world would have serious consequences. The film doesn’t even do a good job of helping the audience keep track of how much time has lapsed within the story. Despite all that’s wrong with it, “Delivery Man” is able to pull in the attention of the audience and pluck their feelings and emotions like violin strings. It has enough humor to keep you looking for the next laugh and enough of a story to keep you invested in what’s happening. I should like it, but I do.
“Delivery Man” gets five mildly embarrassed guitars out of five.
The holiday weekend brings four new movies to a multiplex near you. I’ll see and review at least one of them based on your votes.
Black Nativity—Langston (Jacob Latimore), a Baltimore teen raised by a single mother (Jennifer Hudson), travels to New York City to spend the Christmas holiday with estranged relatives, the Rev. Cornell Cobbs (Forest Whitaker) and his wife, Aretha (Angela Bassett). However, Langston soon finds that Cobbs has strict rules, and the youth is unwilling to follow them. Instead, he sets out on a return journey to his mother and finds the value of faith, healing and family along the way.
Dallas Buyers Club—In mid-1980s Texas, electrician Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is stunned to learn that he has AIDS. Though told that he has just 30 days left to live, Woodroof refuses to give in to despair. He seeks out alternative therapies and smuggles unapproved drugs into the U.S. from Mexico. Woodroof joins forces with a fellow AIDS patient (Jared Leto) and begins selling the treatments to the growing number of people who can't wait for the medical establishment to save them.
Frozen—The fearless optimist Anna (voice of Kristen Bell) teams up with rugged mountain man Kristoff (voice of Jonathan Groff) and his loyal reindeer Sven in an epic journey, encountering Everest-like conditions, mystical trolls and a hilarious snowman named Olaf in a race to find Anna's sister Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel), whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter.
Homefront—Hoping to escape from his troubled past, former DEA agent Phil Broker (Jason Statham) moves to a seemingly quiet backwater town in the bayou with his daughter. However, he finds anything but quiet there, for the town is riddled with drugs and violence. When Gator Bodine (James Franco), a sociopathic druglord, puts the newcomer and his young daughter in harm's way, Broker is forced back into action to save her and their home.
Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film of his choice currently in theatres or On Demand.
Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.
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