To paraphrase Yogi Berra, “Delivery Man” is deja vu all over again.
It seems like only eight months ago I was reviewing “Starbuck,” a charming little feel-good film by Ken Scott based on the true story of a sperm donor who wakes up to discover he has fathered 533 adorable kids. And now, here I am again, a mere 238 days later (but who's counting?), reviewing “Delivery Man,” a charming little feel-good film by Ken Scott based on the true story of a sperm donor who wakes up to discover he has fathered 533 adorable kids.
The plot is set in motion when the sperm donor learns that 142 of his offspring have filed a class-action lawsuit seeking to lift his veil of anonymity.
What's the difference between the two films? Other than the fact that Scott — yes, remaking his own perfectly good French-Canadian movie in English — has replaced actor Patrick Huard with Vince Vaughn, not much. “Starbuck” was a funny and warm-hearted trifle. So is “Delivery Man.”
If anything, “Delivery Man” boasts a more clever, and less confusing, title. “Starbuck” took its name not from the coffee company, but from the pseudonym used by sperm donor David Wozniak (Huard/Vaughn) — an obscure inside joke referencing the name of a famously fertile Holstein bull.
There are some other minor changes. All of the soccer references in the first movie, which is set in Quebec, have been changed to basketball references in the new film, which is set in Brooklyn. And Chris Pratt, who plays David's genially incompetent lawyer, Brett, is actually a bit funnier than Antoine Bertrand, who played the part in the first film. That's nice, because Vaughn is actually a teensy bit less lovable than Huard. Let's call it a draw.
Not than Vaughn is miscast, or that his reading of the character is too misanthropic, by any means. He nails David's Peter Pan syndrome, for one thing, but is equally fine at evoking the character's unexpected paternalism. David becomes surprisingly protective after he starts stalking some of the kids, all of whom are in their late teens and early 20s (and who apparently were cast from a cattle call audition seeking the most wholesome young actors and actresses in the known universe). Adam Chanler-Berat is particularly good as Viggo, a “Starbuck” progeny who discovers his biological father's identity early on but protects David's anonymity so he can have him all to himself. In the process, David also discovers that it takes more than sperm to be a dad.
And that, after all, is what “Delivery Man” is about: not just children searching for a father, but a father searching for the meaning of the term itself. It's especially lovely to see David interact, silently, with his profoundly disabled son. The wordless performance by Sebastien Rene, a young actor who played that character in both movies, is a guaranteed tearjerker.
One other weird thing hasn't changed: The only major female characters are David's pregnant girlfriend (Cobie Smulders) and one of his daughters (Britt Robertson).
David's mother? Deceased. The wives of Brett and David's two brothers (Bobby Moynihan and Simon Delaney)? They're never seen or heard from. And the 533 women who actually used David's sperm, and who presumably conceived, carried, gave birth to and raised his children? It's as if they were all killed in a freak ferry accident. For Scott, motherhood seems to be a less critical component of parenting than fatherhood, at least from a narrative standpoint.
I get it. Turnabout is fair play. So many movies treat fathers as invisible, expendable or irrelevant. It's only expected to have a movie come along, every now and again, that does the same thing with mothers.
Yet all this does is to place “Delivery Man,” despite its roots in a true story, squarely in the realm of male fantasy.
Two and a half stars. PG-13. Contains brief drug content, some crude language and sexual humor. 104 minutes.
Ratings Guide: Four stars masterpiece, three stars very good, two stars OK, one star poor, no stars waste of time.