Vince Vaughn's lovability gets pushed to the limit in 'Delivery Man' ★★

Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Phillips and Tribune reporter Chris Borrelli review Vince Vaughn's latest, "Delivery Man." (Posted on: November 21, 2013)

It's too much to call the misty-eyed sentimental comedy "Delivery Man" Vince Vaughn's very own "Patch Adams," but the film does require Vaughn's character to smile through tears, over and over, in an attempt to yank your own heartstrings straight out of your heart. The movie's goal is a simple one: to leave moviegoers all over the world without functioning hearts, just like that poor schnook in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom."

This is a doggedly faithful English-language remake of the 2011 French-Canadian picture "Starbuck." In many cases the comic beats and gags, such as the protagonist ineffectively pretending not to understand English at a key juncture in the story, are repeated millisecond for millisecond.

The original's co-writer-director, Ken Scott, has reworked the story just enough to accommodate Vaughn and a Brooklyn, N.Y., setting. Premise: Meat truck delivery driver David Wozniak is a congenital meathead and screw-up, going nowhere in his life, lovably. Complication: He learns that as a young man, his rampant sperm donations (all for a noble cause, revealed late in the picture) led to 500-plus women being impregnated. More than a hundred of David's offspring are suing the errant sperm bank to learn David's identity.

"Delivery Man" follows David in his path from man-child immaturity to bona fide dad material, as he anonymously gets to know one of his adult offspring, then another and another. Each episode in the picture is designed to make us see the saint in this salt-of-the-earth guy's guy. He saves one daughter from drug addiction. He helps a son realize his dream of an acting career. Another son works as a historical re-enactor. David's single-father friend, a lawyer played by the endearing Chris Pratt, strives to keep David's identity a secret, but something in the big lug's heart tells him otherwise. Otherwise there'd be no massive group hug at the climax.

The film isn't terrible; Vaughn, Pratt and, as David's frustrated girlfriend, Cobie Smulders know what they're doing in terms of finessing the material for laughs as well as the h-word. But it's all sort of unseemly. Vaughn's character has no defining traits other than a mysterious, heal-all lovability (plus heart). You never hear anything about the mothers who gave birth to these hundreds of kids; it's all about David. The rhythm of the picture feels predetermined by the original, and you can tell, even if you haven't seen "Starbuck."

mjphillips@tribune.com

"Delivery Man" - 2 stars

MPAA rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements, sexual content, some drug material, brief violence and language)

Running time: 1:43

Opens: Friday

CHICAGO

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