Vince Vaughn has been leaning on the same shtick for so long—endlessly recycling the motormouthed dickishness he perfected in Old School—that it’s tempting to applaud the actor for any attempt at a departure. Tempting, but impossible, as doing so would require digesting the sitcom mush of Delivery Man and calling it an improvement. In this contrived, fairy-tale farce, Vaughn plays a well meaning, but unreliable meat-truck driver who discovers that—thanks to regular visits to a sperm bank two decades earlier—he’s fathered a whopping 533 children. Were this one of the star’s bawdier vehicles, that scenario would probably have birthed some off-color masturbation jokes, or maybe a scene in which the hero mistakenly hits on (or is hit on by) one of his progeny. Instead, the setup provides Vaughn, never the most sweet natured of comic performers, an unlikely opportunity to explore his sensitive side. The effort shows, and not flatteringly: More accustomed to slinging insults than beaming with paternal pride, he makes sincerity look as uncomfortable as constipation. “Feel-good” does not come easily for the guy.
Delivery Man may be a change of pace for Vaughn, but it’s the exact opposite for its creator, the Québécois filmmaker Ken Scott. Belonging to the Funny Games school of carbon-copy remakes, the film is an identical Hollywood retread of Scott’s 2011 festival favorite Starbuck. Every scene, every joke, nearly every shot of the movie is straight out of the original. (Does the fact that Starbuck was no masterpiece itself make it more or less forgivable that Scott has basically traced over his own work?) The plot, faithfully reproduced, still finds David (Vaughn) ignoring the advice of his unlicensed lawyer (Chris Pratt, scoring a few laughs) and tracking down the fruit of his labor, all of whom are in their twenties and about a third of whom have entered a class-action lawsuit to discover the secret identity of their donor-dad. David, whose on-again/off-again girlfriend (Cobie Smulders) is pregnant with his child, wants to try his hand at parenting. And so he anonymously intervenes in the bastards’ lives—helping one kid score an acting role, getting another into rehab, and paying weekend visits to a son who’s hospitalized and mentally disabled. The whole thing plays like some sort of Apatovian, man-child version of Touched By An Angel.
Given the outlandish premise—inspired by the true tale of a bull whose spunk spawned thousands of Holstein cattle—it’s probably foolish to expect any degree of plausibility from Delivery Man. But by the time David stumbles accidentally into a gathering of his brood, and ends up struggling to explain how he knows so many of them, it’s hard not to wonder why these young men and women haven’t figured out the identity of their mysterious benefactor. (Perhaps they’ve inherited their father’s wits.) Devolving into a tiresome series of courtroom showdowns, big speeches, heartfelt confessions, and declarations of affection—plus one groan-worthy group hug—Delivery Man suggests that there are worse things Vaughn could do than continue being Vince Vaughn. Like, say, turn into Robin Williams.