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‘Delivery Man’ Review: You’ll Write Upon It, “Return to Sender”

By  · Published on November 22nd, 2013

Brett (Chris Pratt) is a family man at the end of his rope. His career is in tatters after losing his law license, his wife is probably cheating on him, and his four young children, while adorable, will probably be the death of him. His status as a stay at home dad hasn’t earned him any more respect from his kids, and on the rare days when he wakes up feeling pretty good about his life a single call from his mother is all it takes to remind him of his multiple failures.

A chance at redemption comes when he discovers his best friend has just been named in a civil lawsuit. It seems some sperm donations made two decades prior resulted in a few children, and the now grown-up progeny are suing for the right to know the identity of their biological father. It has the potential to be a groundbreaking case, and the idea of being the lawyer at the center of it all both excites and terrifies Brett. He gets his license reinstated, packs his kids’ lunches, and dives in to the deep end for the trial of his life.

Ah what could have been. Unfortunately, Delivery Man is not about Brett, his struggle for self-respect, or a trial with far-reaching moral and legal implications. Instead it’s the story of his best friend, David (Vince Vaughn), a mediocre man who discovers 533 reasons why he should be a better one.

David works with his father and two brothers at the family’s butcher shop, but in his cash-strapped early days he donated copious amounts of baby batter in order to pay his bills. A mix-up at the fertility clinic saw his seed used in hundreds of inseminations resulting in 533 births. Now 142 of those teens and young adults want to meet him, but as if that wasn’t enough fatherhood drama his girlfriend, Emma (Cobie Smulders), has just revealed that she’s pregnant. But it gets worse! He also owes the mob (?) money, and the threats of violence to force him into paying are about to become a reality.

The film follows David as he reacts to the fallout of past bad decisions, and after messing things up with both his family and Emma he decides his recently discovered offspring may be his redemption. One by one he sneaks a peek into their lives, offers an anonymous helping hand where needed, and slowly comes to realize that being a dad isn’t so bad, especially when the kids are already all grown and out of the house.

It tries to build David’s character through his interactions with his kids, but it’s little more than a montage of the generic and the overwritten. The ones who get the most screentime include such original creations as a waiter who really wants to act, an obnoxious vegan dressed in black, and a girl on the verge of an overdose. Worse than these though is the inclusion of a mentally handicapped son whose presence seems solely intended as evidence of David’s maturation into good father material. The whole thing is also sadly predictable to the point that if you’ve seen movies, literally any movies, you’ll have a very good idea of where and how the film is going to end.

Writer/director Ken Scott is remaking his own 2011 French/Canadian film, Starbuck, but aside from a bigger budget and the chance to reach a larger audience there’s no legitimate reason for doing so. The plot conceit is more ludicrous than interesting, David’s character arc is shorter than a spermatozoa’s tail, and the film’s apparent message that paternity trumps all is as empty as it is offensive.

The closest thing to a bright spot here is found in the performances. It’s not news that Pratt is a comedic delight, and he makes the most of his supporting role by earning some chuckles while hinting at the darkness beneath the bathrobe. Andrzej Blumenfeld has a far smaller role as David’s father, but he delivers a heartfelt performance as a man truly pained by what’s become of his son. Vaughn actually surprises by finally learning how to turn down the dial on his usual performance shtick and delivers a calmer, more relaxed character because of it. Unfortunately, Smulders is forgettable here as she has nothing to do aside from react to things in the least believable way possible.

Delivery Man is a not a good movie. An argument could be made that at least it’s heart is in the right place, but it’s an artificial heart that was clearly damaged during shipping, and you’re not going to be happy with the return policy.

The Upside: Vince Vaughn’s relaxed performance; Chris Pratt and Andrzej Blumenfeld; a laugh

The Downside: Predictable, obvious, and unconvincing in its sincerity; mob subplot is as implausible as it is unnecessary

On the Side: Chris Pratt and Cobie Smulders are both part of the Marvel Universe.

Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.