That’s the premise of Vince Vaughn’s latest movie “Delivery Man,” which is based on a hit French Canadian film called “Starbuck.” It may sound like a premise that could easily veer into offensive territory (particularly to us Catholics, due to the Church’s opposition to in vitro fertilization methods), but the big surprise here is that the movie handles its subject as tastefully as possible en route to delivering a beautiful pro-family and pro-child tale that’s packed with both laughs and tears.
The movie follows an irresponsible yet charming slacker named David Wozniak, who is a delivery man for his family’s Brooklyn butcher shop. As the film’s zippy opening moments show, Wozniak is constantly racking up parking tickets, making late deliveries and preparing to get rich quick by growing plenty of pot in his cluttered apartment. He needs money fast because he owes big money on gambling debts, and his longtime girlfriend (Cobie Smulders) is dumping him because she’s pregnant and afraid that he will never become a suitable father.
As if his life isn’t chaotic enough, Wozniak finds himself served with court papers alerting him to a class-action lawsuit by over 140 people seeking the right to meet him because they are claiming to be his biological children. They are part of a larger group of more than 500 children that his sperm helped produce after he made a good number of “donations” to raise money two decades before.
He had never given a second thought to the results of those sperm donations, simply pocketing the money and moving along his merry way. But despite the warnings of his best friend (Chris Pratt), a harried and married father who’s also his attorney, Wozniak starts to track down some of his kids even prior to the courtroom proceedings out of curiosity.
Of course he doesn’t tell them he’s their father, instead pretending to be just a new friend who’s stumbled upon each of them. But as he finds he can serve as a guardian angel and make their lives better, Wozniak learns that he actually wants to be a good father and starts to upend his life.
“Delivery Man” maintains a strong blend of laughs and emotion as well as a strong sense of character from its three leads all the way down through Wozniak’s father and siblings and about a dozen of his offspring. That impressive feat is due to the strong hand of writer-director Ken Scott, who was wisely hired to adapt his own prior film “Starbuck” to English and an American setting.
One could easily expect that the movie would have plenty of laughs by returning Vaughn to the fast-talking wiseguy comedy fans used to love. But the real surprise of the film comes from its strongly played serious moments, as Wozniak finds that one daughter is battling a serious drug problem, while a son is severely disabled. Both storylines have their starkly real moments, but they have beautiful emotional payoffs that make the movie resonate strongly and make it a perfect holiday-season entertainment for discerning older teens and adults.
Thankfully, Scott, Vaughn and the rest keep the film’s focus on the positive elements of the story, and avoid getting bogged down in what could easily have become a morass of sexual humor. The film acknowledges Wozniak’s past actions just long enough to establish the premise, but then wisely move right into the story of how an utterly irresponsible man is transformed by his sudden responsibility to hundreds of people.
As such, I believe that most teens and adult Catholics can easily move past the in vitro part of the premise and gain tremendous entertainment and insight from this movie. And on a Thanksgiving weekend that’s dominated by family anyway, what more could you hope for it to deliver?
Carl Kozlowski has been a professional film critic and essayist for the past five years at Pasadena Weekly, in addition to the Christian movie site Movieguide.org, the conservative pop culture site Breitbart.coms Big Hollywood, the Christian pop culture magazine Relevant and New City newspaper in Chicago. He also writes in-depth celebrity interviews for Esquire.com and The Progressive. He is owner of the podcasting site www.radiotitans.com, which was named one of the Frontier Fifty in 2013 as one of the 50 best talk-radio outlets in the nation by www.talkers.com and will be relaunching it in January 2014 after a five-month sabbatical. He lives in Los Angeles.