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Delivery Man

In David Wozniak 40-some years in Brooklyn, he’s been a failure at pretty much everything. His pregnant girlfriend would rather raise their baby alone than have to depend on him for anything. He’s deep in debt, and not with the kind of loans that you can renegotiate. His idea of a sound business investment is hydroponic equipment. He only has a job because his family owns a successful butcher shop.

The one skill he has, he hasn’t even exercised in 20 years: As a young man, he raised money for a vacation for his parents by selling his sperm to a clinic every day for 23 months. The clinic certainly got its money’s worth: A lawsuit against them reveals that David (who donated under the alias “Starbuck”) is the father of 533 children. And 142 of them want to know who he is.

Those are the slightly modified opening paragraphs of a review I wrote this past May for Starbuck, a hit in French Canada that played for a week at the North Park just before it closed. Delivery Man is the American remake, by the same writer/director, and aside from recasting it and moving it from Montreal, it is exactly the same movie.

The star this time is Vince Vaughn, exercising the vulnerable-loser side of his persona. You have to credit the impulse: He’s played more than his share of motor-mouthed wisenheimers. Unfortunately, the warm fuzzies on hand here are contrived and bland, and fall victim to the extreme laziness of the plot. The lawsuit against the clinic makes no sense, while David’s financial difficulties are a thin device, casually disposed of, to put him at a low point in his life. He spends the bulk of the movie surreptitiously visiting members of his brood. Will he finally reveal his identity to them? Good luck finding a taker for that bet.

Starbuck was the model of what Québécois audiences like in a comedy: a bit of bawdiness, a soupçon of buffoonery, and a lot of sentimentality. It doesn’t translate very well for audiences who expect these things to be more fully fleshed out. A few more laughs would have helped a lot, but director Ken Scott lets every such opportunity pass by. (Look at the scene where David berates a construction worker for leering at his daughter. Anyone should have been able to get a few giggles out of that, but Scott just lets it fall flat.)

Delivery Man hits theaters at an opportune time; a product of Touchstone Pictures, Disney’s semi-retired arm for making movies slightly more adult than their usual family fare, it’s the kind of painless fodder that families unable to agree on anything else will find themselves watching over the upcoming holiday weekend.

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Watch the trailer for Delivery Man

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