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As a way to make money during his youth, David (Vince Vaughn) visited his local sperm clinic 693 times — using the code name 'Starbuck'. When a freezer malfunctioned, the owner began exclusively serving his 'product' and it resulted in him providing the 'juice' to sire 533 children. Now years later more than 200 of his biological heirs want to know who 'Starbuck' is and he must battle with the choice, to reveal or to protect his identity.
Writer/Director Ken Scott must have been experiencing filmmaking deja vu at the helm of the American remake his French-Canadian production Starbuck of 2012. Seemingly he's got a paternal instinct to protect the life of he and Martin Petit's (his co-writer on Starbuck) baby. It's a good premise because it could be completely told from an absurdist perspective. I'm seeing choruses of illegitimate children pouring through windows, manholes, parachuting in from the sky. However, Scott choses a path of servicing the real yearning of the children and the renewed purpose that the impossible task gives to David's life. There's a balance of intimidating beyond belief that's tapered by David's (Vaughn) seeming inability to process the scope of the whole thing. The difficulty with this kind of premise is toeing the line between comedy and sincerity especially when you're trying to service the bleak reality that being the father of that many children almost ensures that some of the children have tragedy in their lives, or that they're complete dipsticks.
Vaughn is really one of the only actors in the world that's likeable enough to be able to carry the burden of the David's reality fathering 500 plus children. He's a man barely equipped to hold down his job as a delivery man for his family's very successful butchery. He can't commit to moving in with Cobie Smulders' Emma, he can't remember to collect his basketball team's jerseys from the dry cleaners; he's a loveable dullard. However when he finds out about his offspring, it gives meaning to his life and he starts to pursue it in weird and wonderful ways. Vaughn's David really shines when he's subliminally parenting his unintended offspring. Applauding a busker, utilising the skills of a life guard, protecting the honour of a beauty, lending his delivery truck to attend an audition; there's nothing he won't do to give them a single serve of paternal nurturing or support.
Chris Pratt's Brett, David's lawyer and best friend, is just a terrifically overwhelmed and cantankerous parent with a horde of toddlers. Watching him berate David and his free range kids is hilarious.
The overwhelming tonal and narrative distraction to the entire piece is David's money troubles with Russian gangsters. Begging friends for cash, having to deal for the fallout of his elderly father Mikolaj (Andrzej Blumenfeld) being beaten to extort the debt felt like an out of body experience. I may have actually muttered 'sorry what movie did I start watching?' As this subplot diverted its attention away from what was already an 500 strong, string of potential parallel stories.
Delivery Man is a surprisingly heartfelt approach to a very funny premise; despite taking several unnecessary narrative detours along the way.
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to the audio review on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: Ken Scott
Written by: Ken Scott based on the original screenplay "Starbuck" by he and Martin Petit
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders, Andrzej Blumenfeld , Simon Delaney, Bobby Moynihan, Dave Patten