Opens Fri., Nov. 22 at Kirkland Parkplace and other theaters. Rated PG-13. 103 minutes.
Could someone please come and save Vince Vaughn’s career from itself? There was a time when he could glide into a movie and rip it up, either as a comic blabbermouth or an edgily unpredictable straight actor. He still talks a lot in movies, but like Nicolas Cage, he’s let go of the scary originality and been absorbed into a tame industry that burps out the likes of Fred Claus and The Dilemma. Case in point: Delivery Man, a comedy of the heartwarming variety, in which Vaughn labors hard to etch a few signature moments around a farfetched sitcom plot.
Said plot comes from writer/director Ken Scott, remaking his 2011 French-Canadian film Starbuck (seen here in April). Vaughn plays an irresponsible schlub, David Wozniak, who drives the truck for his family’s butcher shop. Somehow—and this part remains fuzzy and forced throughout the story—David has gotten 80 grand in debt with some loan sharks. His distant past is about to catch up with him, too: In his 20s, he was a frequent donor at a fertility clinic, and now 142 or so of his biological offspring are suing the clinic to find out the donor’s identity. This setup is rife with easy solutions to the central problem, all of which are ignored as David enlists his buddy (funny Chris Pratt) as his legal representative and tries to keep his estranged and pregnant girlfriend (Cobie Smulders, from How I Met Your Mother) from learning the truth about his potency. The movie’s failure to ignite is especially annoying because it blithely ignores the authentic issues of uncertain parentage while pretending to address them. Yeesh.
Vaughn is a natural fit for the man-child character, and he’s an established master at the art of conversational backpedaling. He has at least one classic line reading: “Congratulations, darling,” which comes at the end of a long pause, delivered in a superbly Vaughnian deadpan. And there’s the irony of Delivery Man: Vince Vaughn actually is a guy who can deliver, as Swingers spectacularly proved at the beginning of his career. Gus Van Sant was not wrong to cast Vaughn in the Psycho remake, either. Let’s set that dangerous person loose again.