In a way, “Delivery Man” is an awe-inspiring achievement: a movie that is 100% disconnected from reality, without a single plausible moment or believable character. And I’m not even talking about the premise, which is that an irresponsible man’s many donations to a sperm bank 20 years ago resulted in 533 offspring, 142 of whom have filed a lawsuit to learn his identity. I mean, no, that premise doesn’t make any sense. But I’ve seen movies with unlikelier scenarios succeed better than “Delivery Man,” which disastrously tries to squeeze real sentiment out of its inane plot when it can barely squeeze a laugh out of it.
Vince Vaughn, trying to be sincere and likable instead of the things he usually is, plays David, a debt-ridden, commitment-phobic delivery driver who learns of the aforementioned offspring from a lawyer who breaks into his apartment at 3 in the morning. (This is not explained.) Somehow his donations were used hundreds of times (not explained), and now 142 of those kids, all around 18 years old, want to know his name. Why they want to know and why David doesn’t want to tell them are not explained. I mean, it’s not like they’re demanding child support, and it’s not like knowing the name of the guy who fathered them will tell them anything useful. But armed with a list of their names, David starts going around New York City (they all live in New York City, I guess) and doing random acts of kindness for them, acting as a “guardian angel.” He thus ingratiates himself into the lives of his children as nothing more than a well-meaning stranger, testing the waters to see if he is capable of being a father (or even a grown-up).
Meanwhile, his fed-up girlfriend, Emma (Cobie Smulders), has just revealed that she is pregnant. “You don’t have the skills to bring up a child!” she told David, to indicate to us what the movie was going to be about. (See also: David’s married brother hanging up the phone after a child-related conversation with his wife and admonishing David, “Never procreate!” ZOING! If he only knew!!) When the news media pick up the story about this anonymous man who fathered 533 children via sperm donation — hello, obligatory Jay Leno monologue cameo! — Emma is one of many people who find the guy disgusting and creepy, as if he personally went into that lab and put his semen in 533 women.
In addition to living in New York, another coincidence about all of David’s children is that they don’t have parental figures in their lives. Their mothers got inseminated, gave birth, then ditched ’em, I guess, because they need guidance now and have no one to give it to them. We see most of them only briefly, in vignettes, but some of the ones David gets to know include a would-be actor, a suicidal girl, and an obsessive vegetarian.
The 142 litigants have regular meetings as “children of Starbuck” (that’s the pseudonym he used when he donated), including an activity day in Central Park. Food, games, and fun, all for people who only know each other because they are co-litigants and share some DNA. One of the signers is a wheelchair-bound 18-year-old with severe physical and mental handicaps who cannot read or speak. This enables the film to include dreadfully maudlin scenes of David being kind to him, but it also raises the question of how he came to be interested in joining the lawsuit.
The one interesting thing about “Delivery Man” is that it was written and directed by Ken Scott as a remake of his own French-Canadian film called “Starbuck.” I haven’t seen the original, but I’m told the remake is practically identical except for being in English. Does this mean that Ken Scott made the same terrible movie twice? Or was “Starbuck” somehow better despite being the same? I’m almost curious enough to watch “Starbuck,” which at the very least will not subject me to the sight of Vince Vaughn desperately trying to make people like him.
(Note: Chris Pratt earns a few laughs as David’s mildly competent lawyer friend, but don’t see the movie just for him, come on.)
D (1 hr., 43 min.; )