Vaughn plays David Wozniak, a harmless but likable underachiever mildly dissatisfied with his life and searching for something more. His wish is granted when a representative from the sperm bank to which he donated a “sample” 20+ years earlier approaches him with the unexpected news that due to a clerical error, he is the biological father of 533 now-grown children. This oversight comes to light because 142 of those children are suing the company to discover their father’s identity. Given profiles of each member of his extensive brood (conveniently, as part of the lawsuit) David’s curiosity takes hold, and he starts to anonymously visit each of his kids.
The comedic elements in the first act are hit-and-miss; the audience isn't given much opportunity to sympathize with David, watching him make bad choices to solve problems created by other bad decisions. As the movie shifts into its second and third acts and the kids are introduced, though, Vaughn's character gains emotional and intellectual perspective and reflects on his past choices; as a result, his character grows and matures more than is commonly seen in contemporary comedies.
By the end, the film proves to be a fun, at times heartwarming, tale with many solid comedic moments. What makes it more enjoyable, though, is that it is not a one-note show: the tone becomes surprisingly serious at times as David surreptitiously enters the lives of his many, many children. Though some of the twenty-somethings are one-dimensional, iPhone-wielding caricatures, others have had darker lives and appear lost and emotionally damaged. It is this welcome acknowledgement of reality that makes the film stand out as not just another one-off easy comedy.
Vince Vaughn is better than he has been in a long time, if not quite meeting the height of his comedic turns in Dodgeball, Old School, and, of course, Wedding Crashers. He pushes himself to inhabit the dramatic moments as much as the lighter ones, and he does a respectable, if not spectacular job. The lovable Chris Pratt is entertaining as the stay-at-home dad/ex-lawyer and Vaughn's best friend, providing more laughs than Vaughn himself. Cobie Smulders, who plays Vaughn’s sometime girlfriend, gives an excellent performance that feels full and developed despite not having a great deal of screen time. However, the real stars of the film are the actors and actresses playing David’s biological offspring. The film delights in showing snippets of many of the kids’ lives.
Delivery Man starts off rocky, but it grows stronger as the “kids” are introduced and explored. It may not have as much of a comedy focus as you might expect given Vaughn's career path, but it’s strengthened by the more dramatic moments. Ultimately, it's hard not to walk out of the theater satisfied with a fun, heartwarming feeling. Though not perfect, Delivery Man proves to be an enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half.
I was lucky enough to be part of a round-table interview with actor Dave Patten, who plays Adam, one of the many children. Adam is a street musician who leads his brothers and sisters in their legal pursuit of gaining information about their father. Both in and outside of the film, Patten is an impressive individual: 25 years old with two released music albums, a published author, an actor, producer and filmmaker. He carries himself in a laid-back and humble fashion, but you can tell he’s traveled a long road to get to this point in his career, and it doesn't sound like he's slowing down anytime soon. Given his range of interests and his incredible work ethic, I expect we’ll be hearing his name again (in some capacity) before too long.
During the interview, he said working with Vince Vaughn was a whole lot of fun, that Vaughn is a very funny, easy-going, and generous person. He reports that on several occasions, Vaughn took many of the actors playing his kids out for drinks. Patten also mentioned that Vaughn was very serious about his role and took his time to get into character before shooting.
For those of you who are interested, you can find some of Dave Patten’s songs, with some pretty cool music videos, on his YouTube channel.