'Delivery Man' offers rough but surprising pro-family message

By Josh Terry

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Nov. 21 2013 5:45 p.m. MST

This image released by Disney DreamWorks II Distribution Co. shows Vince Vaughn in a scene from "Delivery Man".

Jessica Miglio, Associated Press

"Delivery Man" is a story of redemption, which is not a unique idea. The redeemed in question is a man who discovers he is the biological father of more than 500 children, which is a unique idea.

Then again, it isn't.

"Delivery Man" is the English-language remake of a 2011 French-Canadian film "Starbuck," which played in local theaters last spring. (Director Ken Scott is responsible for both films.) The protagonist is a New Yorker named David (played by Vince Vaughn), who is more or less the 21st century poster child for underachievement.

He works as a borderline-competent delivery man for his family meat-packing company, and he has run up a massive five-figure debt to some unscrupulous characters.

Early in the film he finds out that his longtime girlfriend Emma (Cobie Smulders) is pregnant. But at least he has his own place, which makes it a little easier to hide the hydroponic pot harvest he plans to use to pay off the debt.

This should be more than enough for a man to handle, but one morning, a lawyer appears with more news: thanks to a prolific stretch of sperm donations in the early 1990s, David is the biological father of more than 500 children, and about 100 of them are suing to discover his identity.

It's an odd premise to say the least, and with Vaughn in the lead role, one could be forgiven for expecting "Delivery Man" to default to a vulgar, slapstick tone, hurling one-liners at the audience for 90 minutes until everyone sees the light at the end of the third act.

But "Delivery Man" is not so much interested in its comic potential as it is in its message — to one degree or another, we are all family.

Imperfect? Yes. Poor David is far from perfect, but he has a sense for the importance of family.

As evidence: Against the advice of his best friend/lawyer Brett (Chris Pratt), David uses a stack of profiles to seek out his children one-by-one, playing out a series of powerful vignettes that eventually lead him to an entire support group that has been created on behalf of their cause.

In spite of these many interactions, where David acts as a sort of guardian angel providing guidance and assistance while never revealing his true identity, only one of his children figures out he's the man for whom they're looking. It's just one of several suspensions of reality viewers must make, and there's never much doubt as to where the story is going.

But "Delivery Man" isn't all that interested in suspense. And its message makes up for a lot of the narrative mess it leaves behind.

That isn't to say that Scott forgets his star. Vaughn still plays Vaughn. There's definitely an effort to capitalize on the style of the movie's lead, and some audiences will be turned off by some of the vulgarity inherent in the material (mostly referring to the process of donation). But for the bulk of the film, Vaughn displays a sincerity that doesn't seem forced or fabricated at all, and he becomes an easy character for whom to cheer.

"Delivery Man," for all of its rough edges, ultimately seeks to celebrate the family relationship, even if it isn't a movie for the whole family.

"Delivery Man" is rated PG-13 for some vulgar humor and profanity, including a use of the F-word, some mild violence and some sexual content.

Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photojournalist who appears weekly on "The KJZZ Movie Show" and also teaches English composition for Salt Lake Community College. You can see more of his work at woundedmosquito.com.

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