The undeniable sweetness of “Delivery Man” makes its inherent silliness just about forgivable. Or, it just might be the sense of relief that Vince Vaughn is finally making a movie that is just silly instead of crass and stupid like “Couples Retreat,” “Four Christmases,” “Fred Claus,” and pretty much most of what he’s done since “Wedding Crashers.”
Vaughn plays his usual likeable shlub, this time Dave, the son of a butcher. His brothers work in the store with their father, but all Dave can do is drive the delivery truck, and he does not even do that very well. “It’s like every day you find some new way to push the limits of incompetence.”
He also has the usual long-suffering girlfriend, a cop named Emma (Cobie Smulders), who, like all girlfriends in these arrested development movies, has only one responsibility in the story, which is to look beautiful when she tells him that it’s time for him to grow up. It turns out that she is pregnant, and she does not believe he has it in him to be responsible enough to be a dad.
In the midst of all this, he discovers that he already is a dad, at least in the strictly biological sense. Some time ago, he was a “very, very frequent donor” at a sperm bank, which carelessly made it available to many more women than its guidelines allowed. A lawyer shows up in Dave’s apartment to tell him that he is the biological father of 533 children, and 142 of them have sued the facility to find out the identity of the mysterious “Starbuck” whose genetic heritage they carry. Starbuck is not related to the coffee shops or the Moby Dick character who inspired their name. It is the name of the French-Canadian film adapted by its writer-director for this remake, and the name of a legendarily productive stud bull.
Dave is known only as “Starbuck” to the progeny, and his anonymity is guaranteed by the terms of his donor agreement. His best friend is Brett (Chris Pratt, a highlight of the movie and quickly becoming one of our most indispensible comic actors), a lawyer who is beleaguered by his four young children. “My children cannot pick up the frequency of my voice,” he explains, exhausted. Brett gives Dave the folder of information on the 142 plaintiffs and tells him not to open it. What was he thinking?
Dave reads just one file, and is thrilled with his connection to a very accomplished young man. So he takes out another one, and then another, and finds that many of them need help. And he finds that helping them gives him a great sense of satisfaction and purpose. Most don’t need much help. Dave covers a would-be actor’s day job (badly) so he can go on an audition. He warns off catcallers harassing a young woman in a short skirt. He helps an inebriated kid get home. These are in the trailer and are fairly cute.
Some have serious problems. One is a drug addict. One is severely disabled and cannot communicate. These are handled superficially at best and downright irresponsibly at worst.
It’s all just a matter of time before everyone finds out, generally in the most awkward of ways. Cue the fake Jay Leno monologue. But babies are heart-tugging, even twenty years later, and the longing for family from both the children and their bio-dad is so touching that even the most preposterous resolution somehow seems just fine.
Parents should know that the film is about a man who fathered more than 500 children through a series of donations to a fertility clinic and it includes explicit references and crude jokes about producing samples and fertility treatments. Characters use strong and crude language, drink, grow marijuana and abuse harder drugs (the movie implies that addicts can quit easily without any help), and there is some brief violence.
Family discussion: How should Dave prove that he “deserves” to be the baby’s father? What did the children want from the lawsuit? How did he help them?
If you like this, try: “Baby Mama”