In 2011, Ken Scott directed a French-Canadian film called “Starbuck,” a heartwarming story about a slacker 40-something who finds out that he has fathered 500 children due to his sperm donations at a fertility clinic. Despite being a Canadian hit, the only attention the film received was from viewers randomly searching through the foreign movie category on Netflix.
Scott and the original writer of “Starbuck,” Martin Petit, decided to collaborate once again and Americanize their film. Scott and Petit’s version of Americanizing meant replacing the lead actor with Vince Vaughn and calling it “Delivery Man.” The rest of the film was exactly the same down to the actual lines — except for Vaughn’s uneasiness and awkwardness in a role that had little to no humor.
Vaughn plays the role of David Wozniak, a meat delivery driver who is loved for being the nice guy and pretty much nothing else. He owes the mob $80,000, his pregnant girlfriend (Cobie Smulders) doesn’t want him in the picture and on top of that, he is informed that his sperm donations from around 20 years ago — done under the pseudonym Starbuck — have resulted in him having 533 biological children; 142 of them are suing the fertility clinic to release his identity. David goes undercover to meet his kids, and he not only bonds with them, but also aids them in their challenges. However, as the identity case makes national news, Wozniak has to decide whether to reveal his identity or focus on maintaining his “real” family.
Despite its subject matter, this script was chock-full of cliches. The number of life lessons in this film almost exceeded the number of the offspring. Wozniak is the center of three stories: one involving his brothers and father, one involving his 533 children and one involving his future with his girlfriend. They were all equally rushed and did not leave the audience much time to get to know the other characters. The storyline with his family received the least amount of attention, which is a shame because Andrzej Blumfield succeeded at playing Wozniak’s father and expressing the love and disappointment he has in his son. He especially shined in the scene where Wozniak put his father in grave danger — Blumfield’s facial expressions made me feel like I was also in trouble.
Despite having the same plot and most of the same lines, this remake feels like a typical Vince Vaughn film. With the cliche slacker-male-gets-a-change-of-heart plot, it felt like I was watching the sequel to his 2004 film, “Dodgeball” — except with way less comedy. While there was the occasional masturbation and marijuana joke, the lack of humor made Vaughn feel out of place. I just didn’t buy him as the lonely loser down on his luck. His portrayal as a “guardian angel” stalking his kids seemed creepy, and I was surprised that no one put a restraining order on him after frequently noticing his presence. For example, one of his children was a historical tour guide for a colonial site. We see Wozniak in two different tourist groups, and then finally on his own just listening to him. If that doesn’t sound like stalker behavior, then I don’t know what does.
The only laughs came from Wozniak’s cynical best friend and lawyer, Brett (Chris Pratt). Pratt brought some of best comedic relief by practically comparing his own children to demons and trying to convince David that he shouldn’t want to go into parenthood. Smulders is effective as Wozniak’s girlfriend, Emma, but doesn’t really have much to do. She is mainly there as a way for Wozniak to get back on track and grow up, and the audience only sees her in scenes where we need to see his slow development, such as having the stereotypical conversation about whether or not they’re ready to have kids while sitting at a crowded playground.
Scott and Petit should have just left their original indie film alone. While “Delivery Man” still had most of the original version’s sentimental moments, Vaughn tried too hard to play the dramatic role — and failed. The real homage should be paid to “Starbuck.” The original David Wozniak, Patrick Huard, is very convincing as an irresponsible man who has nothing going for him except to serve as these people’s “guardian angel.” If there is a real desire to see this film, just go onto Netflix and watch the original.
Rating: 2.5 stars