FILM REVIEW: Delivery Man
Quick. Imagine the typical Vince Vaughn character. He's loud. He's arrogant. He's abrasive. He's amusing, on a good day.
It would be fair to call Vaughn Hollywood's favourite loudmouth — that mouth has made him a heavy-hitter in the world of comedy. But the cocky swagger that thrust him into the spotlight has reached its sell-by date.
This is exactly what makes Delivery Man such a pleasant surprise. Based on the smash Quebec film Starbuck by Ken Scott, the American adaptation gives Vaughn the heart transplant he's been sorely lacking.
The film's humour doesn't just come from Vaughn's familiar, rapid-fire delivery: occasionally, it's due to his surrender to forces beyond his control. Vaughn plays David Wozniak, a hapless loser careening into his forties as he drives his father's truck and collects parking tickets while dodging debt collectors. Between getting his marijuana grow-op scheme up and running, he squeezes in a little time for Emma (Cobie Smulders), his newly pregnant ex-girlfriend.
Enter a lawyer representing the sperm bank where a younger David had been a very frequent contributor. It turns out David's helped give life to 533 children, who are now suing for the right to his identity.
Soon Starbuck (his anonymous donor name) becomes a media sensation, presenting the slacker a choice — or perhaps an opportunity: reveal himself to his progeny or file a countersuit to solve his money problems.
Then, a strange thing happens amid his moral dilemma — David gets curious and that leads to a bit of compassion. He begins secretly watching and helping his biological children and, by doing so, discovers his own potential.
Delivery Man is Pay it Forward for schlubs. What separates this one from run-of-the-mill comedies is its warm gooey centre. This isn't a gut-busting howler like Wedding Crashers, but rather a story about a schemer who evolves.
It says a something about the crass nature of most comedies today that Delivery Man seems almost genteel by comparison. Still, it's also what makes it refreshing. Sure, some of the story elements might seem forced and fanciful (the Starbucks picnic, for example) and the final act in particular feels disjointed. Also, for a tale about procreation, David's relationship with Emma feels rather bloodless. But movies are where we go to believe and there's nothing wrong with putting a little faith in a story about a putz who becomes a prince.
Oh, and for those wondering about the differences between the French-Canadian Starbuck and Scott's English-language remake, language-issues aside, this is a remarkably faithful adaptation. Granted, Vaughn brings a little more active energy to the part pioneered by Patrick Huard and by moving the action to New York, Scott takes a slightly livelier, less restrained approach. It's not really a question of better or worse, but a less subtle flavour of funny.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5
Cobie Smulders, left, and Vince Vaughn appear in a scene from Delivery Man, the English-language remake of Quebec hit Starbuck. (Jessica Miglio/Disney-DreamWorks II Distribution/AP)
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