This Dad Not So Bad
Vince Vaughn and company charm in an underachiever's tale with few surprises
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders
Directed by: Ken Scott
Stars: 2 1/2 out of 4
Making fun of sperm donation is not new for the cinema. Some other donor picks for you:
"Starbuck" (2011): This French-Canadian film is the original movie on which "Delivery Man" is based. Director/co-writer Ken Scott, who made both, tweaked the original he wrote with Martin Petit to come up with "Delivery Man" for American audiences.
"The Kids Are All Right" (2010): Two artificially inseminated teens being raised by lesbians (Julianne Moore, Annette Bening) decide to find their biological father (Mark Ruffalo) and make him a part of their family.
"Made in America" (1993): Sarah (Whoopi Goldberg) orders the sperm of a tall, intelligent black man, but the daughter who resulted from the artificial insemination discovers her donor dad (Ted Danson) is actually a white man who's an obnoxious car salesman.
"The Switch" (2010): Seven years after the fact, Wally (Jason Bateman) comes to the realization that at the artificial insemination party for his best friend Kassie (Jennifer Aniston), he got so drunk, he replaced the donor sperm with his and that he is the father of her son.
Vince Vaughn's comedies have developed a reputation for being a certain brand of raunchy man-child movies that appeal to people who like low-brow humor.
Given that, "Delivery Man" is a pleasant surprise — a decidedly non-raunchy comedy that actually has a lot of heartfelt moments.
The premise certainly lends itself to low-brow jokes: An affable underachiever discovers that, due to overuse of his 691 sperm donations to a fertility clinic in the early 1990s, he's the biological father of 533 children and that 142 of them have filed a court action seeking his identity because they want to meet the man they know only by his donor identity of "Starbuck."
But other than a few obligatory masturbation jokes, the premise isn't exploited for raunchy humor.
Rather, the film seeks to find its laughs in watching Vaughn's David Wozniak come to terms with his largely unsuccessful life as a meat delivery truck driver in the family business, working with his dad and two brothers.
In addition to having to face the daunting prospect of meeting his biological kids, David also finds out that his longtime girlfriend, Emma (Cobie Smulders), is pregnant, but she has no faith in his paternal instincts and announces her intention to raise the baby without him.
These two shattering events cause David to undergo some self-analysis and seek to remake himself into a better man.
He starts visiting his biological children covertly, without telling them he's the mysterious Starbuck. This, naturally, leads to complicated situations, both comical and touching.
Meanwhile, his best friend, Brett (Chris Pratt), who's also his lawyer, is battling the court action and trying to keep him away from his progeny. Pratt gets a lot of laughs as the put-upon buddy raising four kids and trying to resurrect his failed law career with his friend's high-profile case.
Like any formulaic coming-of-age movie, there has to be a big obstacle. It comes in the form of David's owing $80,000 to some surprisingly low-key loan sharks. They wait several weeks before applying the kind of pressure that causes David to sue the fertility clinic for having caused him this public embarrassment, with the hope of getting enough money to pay his debt. He can go after the money or come out to his children — but not both.
"Delivery Man" does not offer much in the way of surprises. In fact, you'll probably see the whole movie coming a mile away.
And the parents of children born through artificial insemination can be rightfully indignant about the film, because the people who actually raised all of these kids are nowhere to be seen. This is not a film that provides any real perspective on the rights of donors versus the rights of donor-created children.
But somehow, in spite of its shortcomings, "Delivery Man" works. Vaughn and company are just charming and amusing enough to make the movie enjoyable and worth watching.
In the end, I have to say — you knew it was coming sooner or later — "Delivery Man" delivers.