Underachiever David Wozniak (Vince Vaughn) learns he's actually an overachiever, having fathered 533 children via donations made twenty years earlier. But David soon discovers that the shock of his life might just be the best thing that's ever happened to him. Along the way he discovers not only his true self, but also the father he could become.
To many, Vince Vaughn is a lovable lug. Slightly unkempt, a litte paunchy, not too bright, with a goofy sense of humor, a boyish twinkle, and an endearing warmth, Vaughn has parlayed his average Joe persona into a successful - if undistinguished - screen career. Though he can make decent impressions in films carried by more accomplished actors, none of the movies in which he has starred has ever really stood out, and his latest, a touching, feel-good comedy-drama called 'Delivery Man,' is no exception. Ken Scott's intriguing tale of a sperm donor who unwittingly fathers hundreds of children is another of those films that looks good on paper but has trouble sustaining itself, especially as it struggles - like most of its juvenile characters - to find its identity. Afraid to let its comedy go full throttle and unable to keep its sentimentality in check, 'Delivery Man' wanders all over the map, and winds up a ho-hum film that's pleasant enough while it lasts, but ultimately forgettable.
Vaughn plays the eponymous title character, a happy-go-lucky, irresponsible fellow named David Wozniak, who drives the - you guessed it - delivery truck for his family's butcher business. David's life is going nowhere fast, but his dead-end existence takes a surprising turn when a lawyer informs him he's the target of a class action lawsuit brought by 142 people claiming to be his offspring. It seems 20 years ago, back when he was young and strapped for cash, David sold his sperm over and over and over and over and over (and over!) again under the alias Starbuck, and wound up fathering a whopping 533 children! Though David claimed anonymity at the time,12 dozen of these adults are now fighting to force Starbuck to reveal his true identity. David's best friend and attorney, Brett (Chris Pratt), advises him to remain anonymous, and mounts a countersuit against the sperm bank for damages, a move he hopes will yield a sizable settlement that will help pay off David's sizable debts. (It seems after all these years he's still strapped for cash.) David agrees, but that means lying to his girlfriend, Emma (Cobie Smulders), who has just revealed she's - you guessed it - pregnant with his child. Emma, however, harbors strong doubts about David's maturity, reliability, responsible nature, and commitment, and isn't sure if she wants him to be a part of her child's life.
Soon, a dejected David receives a packet containing profiles of all the kids he has fathered, and against his better judgment - and that of his lawyer - he begins to look at them one at a time, methodically tracking down each one and silently observing snippets of their lives, even performing random acts of kindness on occasion. (If he can't really be their dad, David reasons, he can at least be their guardian angel.) One is a professional basketball player, another an aspiring actor. One is of mixed race, another is gay. One is a nerd, another a party boy. His brood is a model of diversity, representing every conceivable type, and as he gradually gets to know them, David learns how to connect with people, become a positive influence, contribute something to humanity, and ultimately be the father these now-adult kids never had...all of which, of course, prepares him to be the ideal dad to his own soon-to-be-born baby.
'Delivery Man' is based on a French-Canadian movie, appropriately titled 'Starbuck,' that also was written and directed by Ken Scott. I haven't seen the "father" film, but its American cousin shuns a whimsical path in favor of blatant sentimentality, with only a few chuckle-worthy jokes sprinkled throughout. "You're like a son to me," the meat market's Polish owner, Mikolaj (Andrzej Blumenfeld), says to David. "I am your son," responds David. In a nutshell, that's the quality of the humor. Vaughn tries his best to milk a few more laughs out of the script, and though he succeeds on occasion, he can't transform 'Delivery Man' into the comedy it purports itself to be. Don't get me wrong; I'm all for family-friendly, heartwarming fare, but too often 'Delivery Man' gets stuck in its own syrup.
The supporting cast asserts itself well and does its best with the mediocre material. Pratt, who supposedly gained 40-plus pounds for his role, handles his assignment as a beleaguered dad and frustrated attorney with aplomb, bringing a Jack Black sensibility to the part. 'Saturday Night Live' alum Bobby Moynihan also makes an impression as David's judgmental brother, though his part doesn't possess much personality. And while it's nice to see the comely Smulders depart from her constricting 'How I Met Your Mother' TV sitcom role, her contribution here isn't much more than window dressing.
'Delivery Man' is painless, not very punchy, and oh-so-predictable. Some sweet moments warm the heart now and then, a few one-liners will make you smile, but the lack of incisive humor - especially given the story's far-fetched premise - and uninspired direction lend this film a bland TV movie feel that it just can't shake. In the end, 'Delivery Man' doesn't deliver what we expect, and in this case, the surprise breeds disappointment. Though this is a cut above the type of film Vaughn usually makes, it won't dig him out of his Vince Vaughn rut anytime soon.
Like most recent releases, 'Delivery Man' sports a high-quality transfer that features good contrast and clarity, and excellent detail levels, yet the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 effort from Disney lacks the vibrancy and visual pop that distinguish the best BD discs. A nagging flatness permeates the image, robbing it of depth, and contributing to the film's unfortunate TV movie feel. On the plus side, grain is largely absent, which lends the picture a pleasing smoothness, and colors are appropriately bold and well saturated. Blacks are rich and deep, whites are stable, and fleshtones appear natural. Close-ups highlight fine facial features well, and excellent shadow delineation keeps crush at bay most of the time. No banding, noise, pixelation, or other anomalies afflict the transfer, and no digital doctoring could be detected either. This is another strong rendering from Disney, but it can't quite match the studio's best product.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track supplies solid sound, but 'Delivery Man' isn't the type of film that possesses very active aural shadings. Surround activity is sparse, with only mild bits of atmospherics occasionally bleeding into the rears. Though most of the audio is anchored in the front channels, some stereo separation helps broaden the sound field, and a wide dynamic scale handles all the highs and lows, with only a couple of instances of mild distortion cropping up. Of course, dialogue is the main star, and all conversations are clear and comprehendible. The repetitive music score by Jon Brion won't win any awards, but it benefits from good fidelity and nice tonal depth, and fills the room with ease. All in all, this is a pretty standard mix that lacks any bells and whistles, but complements the film well.
A fair selection of supplements round out the disc. Nothing particularly special is included, but the material is painlessly presented and tries its best to engender a deeper appreciation of the film. Spoiler alert: It doesn't succeed.
Featurette: 'Building a Family" (HD, 16 minutes) - Many members of the cast and crew participate in this breezy, generic piece that covers the casting and audition process (how the various "kids" got their parts is especially interesting), Vaughn's vulnerability, the film's mixture of comedy and drama, and the close camaraderie and family atmosphere on the set. Plenty of behind-the-scenes footage and several outtakes enhance this slick featurette.
Featurette: "Vince Vaughn: Off the Cuff" (HD, 5 minutes) - Vaughn's notable improvisational ability is examined and celebrated through various outtakes and comments from his fellow actors and director Ken Scott.
Deleted Scene: "You Are Under Arrest" (HD, 3 minutes) - This unnecessary excised bit shows Emma discovering David's side business as a marijuana grower, and was well left on the cutting room floor.
'Delivery Man' bills itself as a feel-good comedy, and although it gets the feel-good part right, this run-of-the-mill vehicle for Vince Vaughn trades laughs for sentiment, and as a result, gives the audience a raw deal. Lacking bite and a strong emotional hook, writer-director Ken Scott's remake of his own French-Canadian film is pleasant enough, but decidedly mediocre, and even a more-likable-than-usual Vaughn can't salvage it. Disney's Blu-ray presentation features solid video and audio transfers and a decent array of supplements, but this ho-hum family dra-medy with a predictable plot and simplistic themes never connects like it should, and is only worthy of a rental at best.