If you want to spend 103 minutes thinking about Vince Vaughn’s sperm, then you and I are very different people. But in any case, that’s the seed of Delivery Man, and while it bore ample fruit, I can’t deny that it left an unwelcome taste in my mouth and okay I’ll stop that right now. That was a mistake. Read on.
There’s usually something rather toxic about Vince Vaughn’s on-screen persona. Whether he’s leering through peepholes in Gus Van Sant’s Psycho, surreptitiously killing dozens with his well intentioned eco-terrorism in The Lost World or just teaching teen geniuses the value of degrading women in The Internship, the defining qualities of his characters are usually either loathsome or worth growing out of at best.
In Delivery Man he seems eager to step into the next stage in his career: a bland one, wherein he’s a well-meaning do-gooder whose greatest crime is irresponsible parking. Sure, he’s a crappy delivery man, and he has a few problems with punctuality, but there’s nothing to really dislike about him. And since there’s nothing to really dislike about him, there’s also only so much you can actually like. He’s a generic Hallmark Channel hero in an only slightly higher concept environment, in which he discovers that his decades-old sperm bank donations have accidentally led to the births of 533 children.
He’s shocked of course, but it occurs to the astute viewer that if this Dave Wozniak character had really donated enough sperm to impregnate 533 women, then he probably must have had some idea that he was producing rather a lot of ejaculate and that it must have been going somewhere. In any case, his children have filed a class action lawsuit against the sperm bank to revoke Dave’s confidentiality agreement, leading to a big court case, and the genuinely disturbing opportunity for Dave to infiltrate the lives of his children without them ever knowing who he is, why he’s there, and whether they share the same genetic defects as this total stranger.
Writer/director Ken Scott, remaking his own 2011 French-Canadian comedy Starbuck, films the events of Delivery Man like they were totally wholesome. For long stretches he gets away with it. Vaughn is forgettably inoffensive as the formulaic leading man, Cobie Smulders is only slightly too disapproving as his long-settling girlfriend, and Chris Pratt steals the movie with his charming performance as Dave’s best friend, a rather crappy lawyer who finally gets a shot at a landmark case because Dave can’t afford to hire anyone else.
But damn those kids are creepy. They’re insufferably wholesome, even when they’re heroin addicts. Their life problems are so monumentally benign that Dave can usually fix them within minutes. And while Dave sneakily becomes their father figure without accepting any of the responsibilities of a real father, their actual parents – who cared so much that they went to the bother of buying Dave’s sperm in the first place – are all, to a one, conspicuously absent.
If all of those people are absentee parents then how do they all have such perfect kids? And shouldn’t by the law of mere averages at least a few of these 533 cherubs have turned into hardened criminals, psychological deviants or at least the kind of drug addict whose chemical dependency doesn’t miraculously disappear when one random stranger says he believes in them?
Delivery Man doesn’t want you to ask questions. It’s not that kind of movie. It’s the kind of Ultra-Lite-Capraesque schmaltz you’re supposed to go torpid with at a Sunday matinee, surrounded by the vaguely interested elderly and parents who are probably thanking god that they only have 2.5 kids. It’s weirdly conceived, only adequately presented, but relatively harmless. Provided of course you consider millions of dollars spent aggrandizing Vince Vaughn’s magical ball sack instead of funding public works, charities or FEMA harmless.