Published Nov 21, 2013The Vince Vaughan comedy Delivery Man is going to look awfully familiar to anyone who's seen the 2011 Québécois film Starbuck. It's nice that director Ken Scott was offered the opportunity to give his home-grown hit the Hollywood treatment himself, but it's so close to a shot-for-shot remake of the original that it's hampered by all of the same problems. It's still a feature-length sitcom that's heavy on situation and light on comedy.
Vaughan is David Wozniak, a perennial underachiever in his 40s who works in the family meat shop and owes a lot of money to some dangerous people. This is before he comes home one night to discover he's being sued for fathering 533 children through donations to a sperm bank and that 142 of them are requesting to learn his identity. Provided with an envelope bearing the profiles of all his children, David goes against the wishes of his lawyer friend and exhausted father of a brood himself, Brett (Chris Pratt), and begins to help his kids without revealing to them who he actually is.
His offspring are a mixed bag: a professional basketball player; a drug addict; a barista with acting aspirations; a mentally-challenged young man David, who never says a word (Sébastien René, reprising his role in Starbuck); and the troubled Viggo (Adam Chanler-Berat), who finds out about David's secret when David drops in on a conference being held for all of his kids, and then uses the information to crash at his place for a while. The idea appears to be that by touching all of their lives in some small way, he can maybe learn to become a better father to the child his girlfriend, Emma (Cobie Smulders), is expecting.
The story is propelled by contrivance and schmaltz, while Vaughan — given little room to do any of his usual improvisational riffing, thanks to the rigid insistence on honouring Starbuck — is left a talented comedic performer stuck colouring within the borders of a paint-by-numbers plot. There are a few good lines scattered throughout, and the lack of cynicism on display is always welcome, but the manipulative emotional payoffs are a poor substitute for potential laughs.
It's all the more surprising that there would be such little effort to expand on, rather than repeat, all of the details of Starbuck given the episodic nature of the premise. Given how many of the storylines could have been replaced with funnier or more involving ones had they simply chosen to focus on some different kids in this incarnation, one can't help but feel like this is less of a reimagining or remake than a straight-up rehash. (Disney)