The new Vince Vaughn movie, “Delivery Man,” has been issued in a rush. Either that or the filmmakers saw what they had shot, threw up their hands, and pushed the movie into the Release basket in the same way a young parent might drop a soiled diaper into a covered laundry pail.
Someone associated with the production—probably Martin Petit or Ken Scott, who collaborated on the original screenplay—had an idea for a movie. Maybe it was an old idea, but it wasn’t all that bad. What if a sperm bank mistakenly oversaw the impregnation of many clients with the swimmers of one supposedly anonymous donor? And then what if over a hundred of the 500-odd off-spring somehow learned of the overuse of one man’s paternity and eventually sued to discover the identity of their biological father?
Is this the idea for a comedy? Well, how about the writers throw in some ironies? The professional and frequent donor, a New York City truck driver, has a girlfriend (a uniformed cop) who becomes pregnant and disillusioned with him at about the same time.
And let’s say he desperately needs to pay loan sharks $80,000. That would give him a motivation to sue the clinic on his own, claiming his unnamed character has been pummeled in the press for having sold sperm so many times.
Now we ought to be able to get a movie out of this, don’t you think? Well, Dreamworks and Touchstone couldn’t.
In retrospect, the movie’s weaknesses are all too obvious. Advertising sold the movie as a comedy, and it isn’t a comedy. No. Vaughn plays his patented goofy guy, David, endearing if you aren’t tired of the personality, but not essentially funny. And the script contains almost no jokes.
Now we can enjoy movies that aren’t funny, but how do we feel about movies that are sappy sentimental? “Delivery Man” gives us a really long, lingering shot of a newborn baby late in its action. Oh, isn’t that sweet.
David’s twenty-something children—we see a hundred or more of them at a time—are all sweet, good-looking or cute, and very, very well-scrubbed. His heroin-addict daughter is the cleanest looking drug addict we’re likely ever to see in a movie. Don’t you just love how sweet stuff like smack injecting is in Hollywood movies? Of course, one of the kids suffers from what might be cerebral palsy. But even he’s spotless and cute. And he’s out of the way before the climax of the film.
And David’s big problems? Well, the movie-makers didn’t spend enough time in prep to solve any of them. Does his girlfriend accept his proposal? The movie isn’t clear about this. Can David pay off the mob? Not without artificial outside help from someone who is himself threatened by the debt collectors.
How about his court case? If you intend to see the movie, don’t read the next couple of sentences as they might give away something you’d rather not know. The court decides that though no one knows who the serial donor is, he deserves a couple of hundred thou for having seen himself made the butt of newspaper jokes. But then David outs himself, and this means the sperm bank won’t have to pay him. There’s a legal standard for you: anonymous targets can suffer; self-proclaimed idiots are apparently unharmed by public jibes.
This isn’t the only place lines of story development have been under-considered by the moviemakers. What did David do with the $80,000 in the first place? Was he still paying off the family trip to Italy from twenty-years before? We thought that’s what he sold his sperm to pay for.
I had one other substantial question about the movie. What do the 500-plus gain from knowing that David is their biologic forbearer? He claims he can be their “guardian angel,” but what does he really do for them? He makes an incompetent fill-in at a coffee shop (which also sells bourbon) so one unacknowledged son can go to an actor’s audition. He signs the little heroin addict out of the hospital after she is found comatose. He acts as a cheerleader for some of his progeny and takes the institutionalized kid out for a stroll.
Are they better off for having met him? Not if they had to watch the movie, too.