Delivery Man really, really wants to be heart-warming, but its many issues keep throwing water on the fire. Written and directed by Ken Scott—and adapted from his French language version, Starbuck— Delivery Man stars Vince Vaughn as an aging loser who discovers that through sperm donation he has fathered 533 children, about 100 of whom are suing to discover his identity. Hilarity doesn’t really ensue.
Part of the problem is that Vaughn’s character, David, isn’t just hapless and down on his luck at the start of the movie. He is a screw-up with a capital F. He works as a delivery man for his father’s meat company, but owes $80,000 to the kind of people who will happily rough up his family to get it back. (It is a major flaw in the film that we never find out what the money was used for.) He has just turned his apartment into a grow house, but doesn’t have the requisite green thumb for that to pan out. His sort-of-maybe girlfriend (Cobie Smulders in a joyless role) is newly pregnant and doesn’t want him to have anything to do with the baby. That’s a pretty deep hole he’s dug for himself.
Then comes the (very, very crowded) plot: the fertility clinic that he donated sperm to accidentally used it for ALL of the babies, and now there are 533 children, a large portion trying to find out who he is. He immediately turns to his lawyer-cum-stay-at-home-dad buddy, Brett, played by Chris Pratt. Brett tells David he is in no way prepared to be a father and promises to represent him in keeping his identity a secret. The plaintiffs, 100 or so of his biological children, send a file with photos and short bios of themselves to entice him to come clean. Since he has absolutely no impulse control, David reads the bios and starts interacting with his “children,” all while fighting in court to keep his identity a secret.
Enter another problem, David is apparently the best father in the whole wide world. Every single choice you make as a parent can be a mistake. It is fraught with the possibility of harming your children, even when you mean well. Although there are a couple of white-knuckle moments, everything David does works out perfectly, even letting his heroine addict “daughter” check herself out of the hospital after an overdose. That one stretched credulity too much for me. There is also a strange subplot in which one of the kids finds out his identity and blackmails him into a relationship, but it’s honestly best forgotten.
Another issue is David’s determination to remain anonymous, even after spending time with all the kids and discovering that he really loves being in their lives. He needs the money from his countersuit—against the fertility clinic, not the kids—to pay off the loanshark who is now harming his actual, grew up with them, family, but he is clearly so desperate to tell them that it’s hard to believe he never just blurts it out. And again, although we eventually find out the heart-warming reason why he donated sperm so many times, we never learn what the loanshark money was for, so we can never really forgive him that particular sin, which is sort of a major one.
Vaughn acts very Vince Vaughn-y, which works really well here. You never really expect much from him, but he conveys a lot of heart, enough to care for 534 children, and enough to make everyone around him happy to forgive him for some terrible things. Pratt, of course, steals the show. He gets just about every laugh in the movie. His onscreen kids get the other ones. Of the supporting cast, only Andrzej Blumenfeld as David’s father and a couple of the bio-kids (Dave Patten, Jack Reynor) stand out. Bobby Moynihan is terribly flat as one of David’s brothers, and Smulders is mostly just no-fun.
So what did I like? Jon Brion’s soundtrack was fantastic. When David and Brett raced off to see the first bio-kid and ACDC’s “Thunderstruck” played, every head in the theater was bobbing. When David finally tells his father the truth about the situation, Blumenfeld plays the reaction so wonderfully it goes a long way in making us like David. Pratt’s final scene was hilarious and perfectly underplayed. And, god help me, in spite of all the flaws, I liked the last 30 minutes. My heart was warmed. His choice of when and how to tell his girlfriend about the 533 kids he fathered should have made you want to kick him in the nuts, honestly, but with Vaughn standing there, looking all hopeful, you can honestly believe that he doesn’t realize what a dick he is. And, like his 500-some odd family members, you just want to give him a hug.