*1/2 (out of four)
Eight months ago, the French-Canadian dramedy “Starbuck” opened in Chicago. The schmaltzy, cheaply sentimental film featured an unlikable guy trying to prove he’s not a jerk by doing things the only way he knows how and waiting for everyone to give him a break.
It had Vince Vaughn’s name written all over it.
Abracadabra, we have “Delivery Man,” the Vaughn-starring remake of “Starbuck,” unfortunately still written and directed by Ken Scott. Perhaps a new filmmaker would have embraced the nitty-gritty details of David (Vaughn) finding out that a procedural error led to his 693 sperm donations spawning 533 children, 142 of whom contest their biological father’s right to anonymity. A different director could have suggested that the goons hounding David and his family for his $80,000 debt actually mean business and could have acknowledged that not all children conceived via sperm donation have no father figure.
Instead, Scott makes the same mistakes again. Better suited for a TV series than a movie, the contrived, low-energy “Delivery Man” is a drama with no tension and a comedy with few jokes and bad timing. Having learned that his girlfriend (Cobie Smulders) is pregnant but doesn’t want him involved, David decides that he wants kids and aims to be a “guardian angel” to his secret children without coming clean about his identity. This behavior is played for laughs, even when he introduces Kristen (Britt Robertson), who doesn’t know David is her father, as “an ex-drug addict” to some of her newfound brothers. In reality, this probably would crush her. It’s not even the scene’s worst moment. That comes when David claims to be the adoptive father of a young man with special needs, and David uncomfortably repeats the word “disabled” so many times you think his brain’s a skipping record.
I’m not a grinch. I loved “About Time,” a movie that practically came coated in powdered sugar. I feel nothing but irritation for “Delivery Man” because the film sets up an extreme situation that begs for emotional authenticity but only presents superficial, unearned feel-goodery. David doesn’t want to be a dad; he wants to be a cheerleader. He only identifies each of his kids by one trait, and you can imagine him thinking of them as “the lifeguard” or “the Jason Mraz-looking street performer.” When one actually tries to spend extended time with him, David complains.
Off the top of my head, we’ve had the scene in “Road Trip.” We’ve had the mediocre “The Babymakers.” And now “Starbuck” and “Delivery Man.” Hollywood, it’s time for some Regina George-style advice: Stop trying to make sperm bank comedies happen.
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