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Bank on film to deliver sentimental shmaltz

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Vince Vaughn in Delivery Man.

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Vince Vaughn in Delivery Man.

DELIVERY Man is a Vince Vaughn comedy about an irresponsible oaf who discovers his sperm-donations-for-money years resulted in 533 kids he never knew he had.

As he learns this news -- that his kids are reaching out to break the anonymity of his donations, just as his "you're-too-immature-for-me" girlfriend (Cobie Smulders) tells him she's pregnant -- we have the makings of a charming time-to-grow-up-and-be-responsible-comedy.

Which is exactly what Delivery Man manages to be.

To play David, the impulsive, meat-truck-driver son of a New York butcher, Vaughn tones down the manic patter that made him famous and reaches for the heartstrings. David is the guy his dad (Andrzej Blumenfeld) and butcher siblings can never count on. He's always late, always letting people down, always trying to get rich quick with some harebrained scheme. He's in debt up to his eyeballs when the scary lawyer from the fertility clinic shows up and informs him mistakes were made, David's seed spread further than he ever imagined, and now the offspring are suing to find their father.

He needs a lawyer. Slovenly, overwhelmed father-of-four Brett (Chris Pratt of Parks and Recreation) is his pal, and his last hope.

And then David makes the fateful decision to look at the profiles of the kids suing him, to look them up and stumble, anonymously, into their lives.

Delivery Man, based on the more charming French-Canadian comedy Starbuck, takes us on a roller-coaster ride through the lives of kids thriving (a pro basketball player) and struggling (a street musician, a bartender/actor). Writer-director Ken Scott, who also made the original film, deftly recycles the exultant highs and touching lows as David cheers on his Knicks-star son like a proud papa, and saves his distraught, overdosing daughter.

They need me, David pleads to Brett. They need a guardian angel.

The story plays up David's innate good-heartedness, and happy accidents allow him to make a difference in his kids' lives, but he also gets a taste of the tough side of parenting.

Vaughn is at his most appealing here, even if that robs the film of many potential laughs.

Yes, the French-Canadian version seemed to have more snap to it, but this was never a standard-issue Hollywood yuk-fest. This story was always about growing up (better late than never), compassion and learning to be someone people can depend on and love.

Whatever laughs there are, they don't make or break the movie the way Vaughn does as a guy who meets kids growing up fatherless (no mention is made of who raised them) and with problems. The supporting cast is a bit skimpy on comedy charisma, which happens in films where you spend all your money on your star.

So it's no Starbuck, which most people won't mind because Americans don't read subtitles, but even in this form, Delivery Man and the guy who plays him still deliver where it counts.

 

-- McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 22, 2013 D5

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