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MOVIES: Delivery Man – A disappointing and unnecessary Vince Vaughn vehicle – Review

In 2011, with very little fanfare, writer/director Ken Scott released a small French-language Canadian film called Starbuck which was well received due, in large part, to its leading man (Patrick Huard) and the way it impressively handled a very ridiculous concept. Now, in 2013, Scott has done an English-language remake of his own film, substituting a woefully under qualified Vince Vaughn for Huard and abandoning all of the endearing odds and ends that made the original so enjoyable.

Retitled to the unbearably mundane Delivery Man, the story is almost a beat for beat rehash but without the heart. David Wozniak (Vaughn) is a scheming underachiever who puts great amounts of effort into avoiding responsibility. His very simple job of delivering meat for his family’s butcher shop is too vexing for him, but the delicate art of growing hydroponic marijuana in his apartment is right up his alley. His sort-of girlfriend, Emma (Cobie Smulders), has reached the point of exhaustion with his pathetic life choices, going so far as to forbid him from having any part of her pregnancy. (Spoiler alert: David’s the father.)

Thinking his biggest problem is owing some mob guys $80,000, David learns that, thanks to his very prolific activity at a fertility clinic over the course of 18 months nearly 20 years ago, he is the biological father of 533 children. Worse still, 142 of his children are suing the clinic in order to reveal his identity. David made every donation under the pseudonym Starbuck and the confidentiality clause protects his anonymity, but the lawsuit could expose him. With his very incapable lawyer and best friend Brett (Chris Pratt) on the job, David does everything he can to keep his name a secret.

Despite several attempts to capture genuinely emotional moments, Delivery Man feels shallow as Scott adapts his film’s tone to Vaughn’s signature brand of performance. Starbuck worked so well because it was quirky and funny and the serious moments never felt forced. Conversely, Delivery Man has the stink of Vaughn’s touch, bending every moment to his very limited acting abilities. Vaughn is very talented at what he does, but like Ryan Reynolds, he is only tolerable in one type of role. It’s undeniable that Vaughn is a brilliant comedic actor; his lightning-fast wit and effortless delivery are unrivaled. And while Vaughn is a likable guy (and probably an ideal drinking buddy), a role like David Wozniak requires someone who can be lovable while also managing to screw up even the simplest tasks.

This brings us to Scott’s worst decision in remaking his own film: casting Chris Pratt opposite Vaughn. Over the last few years, we have gotten glimpses at Pratt’s undeniable talent and charisma as an actor. Scott would have been best served casting Pratt in the role of David and allowing Vaughn to “do his thing” as the questionably proficient lawyer and best friend. Pratt’s innocent, doughy face is so pinch-worthy that even watching him screw over his family again and again wouldn’t make us hate him; seeing Vaughn do it is just annoying. Whether on Parks & Recreation or in a movie like The Five-Year Engagement, Pratt always seems genuine, a quality sorely lacking in the David Wozniak we get.

Scott struggles, also, with how American audiences will handle moments of seriousness amidst what is ostensibly a comedy. Despite his lawyer’s advice, David decides to find out more about the children who are a part of the lawsuit. His interactions and the revelations he has are supposed to be funny, but this comes to an abrupt halt when he realizes that not every child has a properly functioning life. There is almost an audible needle scratch when David visits one of his sons whose problems he couldn’t even begin to imagine. The cold water Scott throws on his audience seems almost mean-spirited as nothing had prepared us up to this point. In a film like this an appropriate tone is paramount and Scott fails to translate this for his remake.

Grade: D+

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