Have you ever experienced the incredibly fulfilling sensation of sitting in your comfy red velvet armchair for two hours, just watching your movie, not being distracted by any other thought? I know what you are thinking. It is not easy these days. So many movies just make you want to take out your phone, talk to your friends, or simply just keep checking the time. Delivery Man is not one of them. The story is as simple as it is absurd: a man discovers that the sperm he had donated for money in his youth has been used so many times that he now has 533 biological children. It wouldn’t even be too bad if these now young adults didn’t want to meet him and if he wasn’t the most unreliable person on the planet.
If this story sounds familiar is because Delivery Man is a remake of Starbuck, a Canadian comedy by Ken Scott that came out only two years ago. The setting has been moved from the Quebec to New York City, but the rest hasn’t changed much, even Scott is back behind the director’s chair. In fact, Starbuck is still the name under which the sperm has been donated. All 533 times.
Chapeau to the casting of the American version for the presence of Vince Vaughn as the lead. If when you read his name what pops into your mind is one of his sardonic comedies…well, forget it. This time around he is really reaching down to his acting skills, to leave space for character development and sympathy. We are still talking about pure sitcom, but the witty irony and the substantial questions that the plot raises really make it something more.
Let’s now get to the actual movie. Its “business card”, the opening titles, are lovely. The objects all around the apartment, the details, the colours, really give a good idea of who our protagonist is. We first hear about him, in a good paced dialogue, and then we finally come face to face to the man himself, the sperm bank legend. Before even being presented with the actual inciting incident, the audience has already been told what this movie is going to be about: children and parenting. Dave’s brothers are complaining about their babies and wives, right after he has found out that his girlfriend (Colbie Smolders of How I Met Your Mother) is pregnant, setting the anxiety for what will come soon after: an unbearable amount of children.
The anxiety and curiosity grows even more when Dave is contacted by the sperm bank and is given an envelope that contains the identity of all his biological sons and daughters that have expressed the will to know him. The object of mystery brought in the story really sets the character on fire and gets his best friend and (almost fake) lawyer Brett (Chris Pratt) involved. He tries to convince him to let go, to ignore this absurdity. But it’s all in vane. The envelope might seem to contain just a bunch of names and profiles, but it actually encloses the possible meaning of the protagonist’s life and he knows it too. He starts off by picking just one paper, at random. But then another follows, and another, until he decides to hang all the profiles on a wall and turns them one by one, peeking every day into the life of a different child. By knowing them, at least superficially, he discovers a paternal instinct he didn’t think he had. He becomes their guardian angel: helps them getting the role of their life, teaches them how to play basketball, or supports them in their everyday life. This is naturally shown through a montage. Not particularly original maybe, but it works, and that’s almost all we ask of a Hollywood comedy these days.
All of a sudden, Dave is busy, running around with only these young people in mind. He used to say he didn’t have a life, but now, thanks to them, he most definitely does. And not just one, but many, as if he was getting to see all the possible developments one’s story can have.
It is important to keep in mind, however, that we must just accept the story for what it is, without pretenses of rationality. None of the kids starts having doubts or think that a stranger who hangs out with them is a bit creepy, and he seems to not have that many concerns when finally the smartest of them discovers who he is and moves in with him. Delivery Man, as in many films of its kind, simply wants the audience “to roll with it”, as informally as possible.
After all, who has time to think, when you are laughing so hard at such good dialogue? Brett and Dave share incredibly amusing scenes, and we become attached to both of them before even realizing it. Even the typical touching father-and-son Hollywood moment has its comic relief. Over sentimentalism maybe makes its entrance when Dave finds out that one of the children is handicapped and living in a foster home. It is fully understandable why this might have been a good idea for the plot, but is maybe underestimating the actual difficulties of being in a situation like that.
We can however forgive that decision to go down a slippery slope because, after all, Dave makes the right choice when it comes to deciding whether or not to reveal himself to the children. He goes to court with Brett and –as expected by any member of the audience who knows a little tiny bit of law- they manage to win and secure him anonymity. But when it is not a matter of money anymore, but of heart, then we really witness Dave’s growth. The mix of silliness and sincerity we have seen in him finally leads him to accepting that he is already a father, independently from his decision to deny it or not.
Chirs Pratt and Vince Vaughn are what make this movie worth the price of the ticket, making a really good team. Kudos to Ken Scott and Martin Petit for the writing that never leaves you bored.
If you have a spare evening this Thanksgiving, grab a family member or ten and enjoy some time together, being reminded why it is a gift to be part of a bigger picture.
Review by Giulia Rho