The trouble with Vince Vaughn and his new movie 'Delivery Man'

Last week in Vince Vaughn news, the following happened: Vince Vaughn visited David Letterman. He wore a dark suit. He spoke in his familiar, over-confident rat-a-tat. He explained that, as a native of Chicago (actually, Lake Forest), he likes to spend Thanksgiving with family, but the rules and decorum of driving someone to and from the airport are tricky. As always, he was charming, loose and never for a second were you sure if he was Vince Vaughn the star, Vince Vaughn the character or Vince Vaughn the human being.

Very little ever seems different about Vince Vaughn.

Except for one moment, right at the beginning of the interview, when Dave casually mentioned how Vince Vaughn was remarkable in 1996's "Swingers," the movie that established Vince Vaughn as a major star.

Vince Vaughn showed no expression. Despite being an actor whose shtick is so tied to rhythm — even his name demands to be spoken in full — his beat was thrown. He nodded but seemed uninterested in recalling those heady days, that time before Vince Vaughn stopped working with engaged filmmakers and settled into contemporary Vince Vaughn — purveyor of forgettable, mediocre Friday nights: "The Internship," "The Watch," "The Dilemma," "The Break-Up," "Couples Retreat," "Fred Claus" and "Four Christmases." (Only if Dave had mentioned that it's been seven years since "Wedding Crashers" could it have gotten more awkward.)

This happens now, in a film, on a talk show: Vince Vaughn's bad choices and his earlier self collide.

That morning on "Good Morning America," the drill was identical: Vince Vaughn wore a dark suit. He spoke in his familiar, over-confident rat-a-tat. But at the end of an otherwise remarkably frictionless, insight-free interview (even by morning TV standards), Robin Roberts asked Vince Vaughn, whose new movie is "Delivery Man," to play a quick game: FedEx or UPS? Chinese delivery or pizza delivery? He could pick only one. Vince Vaughn regarded her with his flat, ironic smirk, then wisely did not shill for either FedEx or UPS. But on the topic of pizza or Chinese?

He froze. He would not want to live in a world without pizza, but he would hate not to have Chinese …

He never picked.

How did it get to this, Vince Vaughn?

So squishy, so blah, so all-things-to-all-people — so eager for our acceptance.

Consider the following a career intervention and/or explainer of why Vince Vaughn got to be the way he is. The sort of inspirational, down-by-48-at-halftime pick-me-up that Vince Vaughn likes to deliver in his films. A moment to say, look, your career was a crazy train of boom, bash — different — humming along, humming along, clickety-clack, clickety-clack, and you have got to summon your inner Ozzy again! Bite the head off that live bat! Spit it out and shout: Hello world, I am Vince Vaughn! And, dammit, I act like I don't care what anybody thinks about me!

Let's see that guy again, that man of action.

Because Vince Vaughn, the Katherine Heigl of the North Shore, the Michael Keaton of the Millennium, the Neediest Man in Motion Pictures, has made, unfortunately, the ultimate squishy Vince Vaughn vehicle: the new "Delivery Man," which is ephemeral, sweet and washes over you as thoroughly as his last seven major movies. "Delivery Man" tells the story of how a fast-talking charmer gets into unlikely trouble. He plays David Wozniak, Brooklyn delivery man (the non-Chicago location being the only anomaly in an otherwise Vince Vaughn-friendly scenario).

David Wozniak contains the six or seven elements that must occur in nature to summon Vince Vaughn:

David Wozniak, as with many Vince Vaughn characters, is not the best at his profession — just the most lovable and rakish. He delivers meat, drives a truck. When we meet him, he's navigating Brooklyn, delivering meat badly. He is Polish, comes from a large family that owns a neighborhood meat shop. He hangs a Polish flag in his small apartment, which has a Very Vince Vaughn (copyright pending) feng shui: Piles of unwashed laundry and a copy of "Frampton Comes Alive" (vinyl, of course). He is having trouble with his girlfriend (Cobie Smulders), though we suspect this is less about kindness than it is about inconsistency (indeed, it is).

David Wozniak high-fives. He giggles. He talks people into stuff. He wears sports jerseys; he appears to be a softball guy but plays in a local basketball league. He gives motivational speeches, confessional speeches and speaks in pop culture-laden metaphors. He has a deep-set eyes with bags and a towering cliff of a forehead that slopes back to meet austerely receding islands of hair. He is tall and slender, with a paunch.

As a man letting himself go, failing to capitalize on early promise, Vince Vaughn is convincing.

But the detail that makes "Delivery Man" the perfect Vince Vaughn vehicle is that "Delivery Man" tells the story of how a regular guy who happens to look like Vince Vaughn creates a doomsday cult in his own image, eventually becoming the leader of a large, fanatical following that pledges its unadulterated support, vowing to love him unconditionally. At least I think that's it. The official plot: David Wozniak, due to a glitch in a decades-old sperm donation, fathered 533 children. As sycophantic adults, these offspring realize (SPOILER!) they unreservedly love their rascally Vince — er … David Wozniak.

And so, he is frequently reassured: "You are loved," "People love you," "Everybody loves you."

And still he stands, hangdog, in an unzipped hoodie, in the rain no fewer than three times. He says, "In my life, I have had a tendency to make very bad decisions," and you nod vigorously in agreement.

CHICAGO

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