Delivery Man [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Entertainment One
Review written by and copyright: Ethan Stevenson (27th March 2014).
The Film

"It is impossible to be the father of 533 children."

Writer/director Ken Scott’s “Delivery Man” is an English-language remake of his original French-Canadian film “Starbuck” (2011). The Hollywood version is a lesser endeavor when directly compared to its superior, subtitled predecessor. Although perhaps not a fair one, the comparison is necessary simply for the fact that “Man” is a scene-for-scene––and sometimes even shot-for-shot––redo, with little deviation from form. The remake is never terrible, and is even enjoyable, if also flawed, on its own terms. Of the two features, I’d really only recommend “Delivery Man” if you’re averse to foreign-language fare, simply refuse to read subtitles (biases that, I suppose, are probably one and the same), or care to compare for yourself after seeing “Starbuck”. Make no mistake, neither film is a masterpiece; each is equally a little too syrupy (maple or otherwise) at times. But both productions have their charms––“Delivery Man” just has less of them, in large part because of its less effective cast led by an ill-fit Vince Vaughn. “Starbuck” is also undoubtedly the funnier film; so much so that, while I’d consider the original a conventional comedy with moments of sincere and even somber emotion, the remake seems like a straight drama with brief moments of levity.

Differences in tone aside, both pictures are farmed by the same conceit, which seems not just improbable but the stuff of impossible fantasy-fiction. Years after anonymously donating his DNA at a sperm bank (more than 600 times!) in his teens and early 20s, under the pseudonym Starbuck, David Wozniak (Vince Vaughn) discovers he’s actually the father of 533 children. The forlorn forty-something, a slacker deep in debt to some very bad guys, learns that one fertility doctor decided to use Starbuck’s “superior” samples almost exclusively when inseminating women, and that 142 of Wozniak’s test-tube babies plan to sue the clinic from which they came, in the hope that they’ll win the right to learn Starbuck’s true name. Fatherhood is forced upon Wozniak about half-a-thousand times plus one more when, at the same time he is secretly at the center of a bitter legal battle for his right to privacy, his on-again/off-again girlfriend Emma (Cobie Smulders) informs him she’s pregnant. Emma tells David that, unless he gets himself together, and stops scheming, scamming and growing pot in his apartment, they’re done for good, and he’ll never be a part of their child’s life.

Against the advice of his best friend and lawyer, Brett (Chris Pratt), and ultimately to prove to Emma and, in a way, himself that he has what it takes to be a father and a better man, David decides to look into the lives of the kids that are, at least genetically, his. In his travels to find the various tubers, Wozniak meets an eclectic collection of characters that also happen to be his children: a successful basketball star; a struggling street musician; a terrible tour guide; a lifesaving lifeguard, and dozens upon hundreds of others. David conceives himself that, although he can’t possibly be a parent to each and every one of the 500-plus, he can at least meet some of them and help them however they need. He offers to make macchiatos for Josh (Jack Reynor), when the out of work actor can’t find anyone to cover his shift at an empty coffee shop the day he has an audition; he saves a drug addict named Kristen (Britt Robertson) from a fatal overdose; and he gives an ostracized oddball known as Viggo (Adam Chanler-Berat) a place to live… although only because the kid figured Wozniak was Starbuck when David slipped up, and accidentally stumbled into a press conference with his offspring and their extended family, lead by Adam (Dave Patten), an activist who initiated the lawsuit in the first place. Both the remake and the original present David’s biological children as a pleasingly diverse group; some successful and others not, of various orientations, allegiances, and affiliations. The remake does a decided worse job of bringing together a group of actors who look like they could’ve sprung from the loins of the lead, or are in any way related each other. It should be noted, both do a bad job of explaining where the other parents are.

When Scott and his writing partner Martin Petit were scripting the original “Starbuck”, they worried no one would find the plot believable, but then happened upon news of a similar case had been brought to court in their native Canada. Taking little of the real-life story into consideration, but buoyed by the assurance that such an implausible thing could and indeed did happen, Scott and Petit plowed ahead with their film, structuring it as the journey of an arrested adolescent in a grown man’s body, and his eventual reconciliation with not just his own offspring, but his father, brothers, and even himself. Both pictures also play with the notion that, deep down, although David does stupid and incredibly immature things, he’s a good guy, with a lot of heart. In the remake, Vaughn’s begrudgingly believable as a petulant, perennial, underachieving ass, but the actor fails to consistently convince that he's shifted to the sincere in the latter half of the picture.

Vaughn obviously hoped “Delivery Man” would be his chance to prove he can be a serious, non-sarcastic actor. Intermittently, he succeeds, just as the film does. There are some nice moments, particularly in a side plot involving one of Wozniak’s sons, Ryan (Sébastien René, who also played the character’s analog in “Starbuck”). David’s first of many visits with Ryan plays in a wordless montage, in which neither says a single word. Ryan doesn’t speak because he’s a disabled mute; David, because he can’t bring himself to say a single thing, for fear that in the awkwardness of the scene he’ll reveal his real identity. At the end of his first day with Ryan, an attendant tells David, “you did well.” “But I didn’t say anything,” he replies. “Trust me, you did really well,” she says, giving him a knowing smile, as though to say the gesture and commitment by just being there was more than enough. Like many scenes in the film, its a near shot-for-shot creation, but gives into the prior picture’s subtleties, where Vaughn’s counterpart never tries to go for something big and Vaughn does the same. Most of the sequence is shot form behind or a far, relaying the quiet distance between father and son, while giving in to a special kind of intimate atmosphere. There’s an element of the original film here; a moment of genuine sentiment, however fleeting, completely earned.

Vaughn plays well with some of his fellow cast members, but not others. Particularly problematic is the complete lack of chemistry between Vaughn and Smulders. In Emma, Smulders has landed yet another role in a feature film where she's used ineffectively and barely at all. Vaughn’s scenes with his supposed siblings, played by Bobby Moynihan and Simon Delaney, interject some humor that’s not entirely off-putting. And Chris Pratt, in full I’m-going-to-eat-eight-Choco-Tacos-in-my-bathrobe mode, plays Brett as a more settled, smarter version of his “Parks and Recreation” (2009-present) character Andy Dwyer. A lovable but ill-equipped lawyer who’s let his license lapse and is totally at a loss as to how he'll help his friend in legal terms, Brett’s the counter to the distraught David. Where Wozniak initially shucks parenthood, the other, a flustered father of four, wouldn’t have it any other way. Brett often acts as the voice of reason, through natural levity, and Pratt does a great job playing off Vaughn in their scenes, usually besting him. Lending some gravitas to the production is Polish actor Andrzej Blumenfeld, making his American screen debut as the patriarch of the Wozniak clan. Although Blumenfeld is certainly good, offering another set of serious scenes in which Vaughn is tolerable, his presence––apparently cast at the suggestion of DreamWorks SKG boss Steven Spielberg––points to the biggest problem with “Delivery Man”: its grander, dramatic slant. The fun of “Starbuck”, certainly the funniness, is frequently missing in the remake, replaced by a conscious craving to be taken seriously. Where the French-Canadian film dabbled in sentiment very slightly, the remake makes sure to inject a heavy dose of schmaltz, to the point where it becomes an overpowering part of the whole.

Made on a modest budget, “Starbuck” proved profitable at the Canadian box office, was named the most popular Canadian film at the Vancouver Film Festival, and spawned, in addition to the American-born “Delivery Man”, two other remakes: a Bollywood version called “Vicky Donor” (2012) and a French-European film called “Fonzy” (2013). “Starbuck’s” various remakes exist because a certain percentage of the population refuses to read during a film. “Delivery” is almost beat for beat identical to its Canadian counterpart, with minor, superficial differences––David, and his sports-star son both play basketball, not soccer; the location is shifted from Montreal to New York City; David’s love interest has a day job as a beat cop. The conundrum of “Delivery Man” is that it adheres too closely to “Starbuck” to distinguish itself in any meaningful way; and whatever diversions it does make diminish the picture and its premise, and only make me more certain that the original film is the one deserving of a recommendation.

Video

“Delivery Man” is a middling film, but it’s high def transfer is marvelous. The 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 high definition presentation is excellent, rendering every minuscule detail in the film’s frequently packed 2.40:1 widescreen frame. Flyover shots of the New York City skyline are crisp and sharp, with individual windows and bricks easily discerned. More intimate scenes––closeups of stubbled Vaughn––and medium range shots of city streets and landscapes reward with equal measure. Shot on 35mm film, and finished on a 2K digital intermediate, there’s a refreshingly filmic quality to the image, with a natural, fine layer of grain intact. Contrast is rich, striking a perfect balance between deep, well-delineated shadow and clean, natural highlights. Colors are vibrant and nicely saturated, only lightly touched by the usual teal-and-orange color grade. The film takes place mostly in the autumn, and the defined foliage in many scenes, especially at the weekend get-together in the upstate countryside, has a gorgeous golden-yellow glow, and the rest of the palette a variety of lush and warm tones. The Blu-ray encode is flawless; no banding, blocking, or other noticeable artifacts. Edge enhancement and noise reduction are a non-issue. I did detect some slight shimmering to the intricate pattern of glass and steel siding in a few of to the ridiculously detailed in establishing shots, but it’s so fleeting that I don’t think it warrants knocking down the disc from a perfect video score.

Audio

The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is less impressive than the video, mostly due to the nature of the film and overall reserved design of the mix rather than the transfer to Blu-ray. Dialogue-heavy drama in place of action, the film’s dramatic and comedic qualities don’t really lend themselves to bombast or immersive atmosphere. But clarity is respectable, and Jon Brion’s score (and the intermittent use of pop songs in the soundtrack) bleeds nicely into the surrounds. The disc also includes a English Descriptive Video Service track in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, and dubs in Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 and French Dolby Digital 5.1, with optional subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.

Extras

Without a meaty making-of or audio commentary, “Delivery Man’s” scrawny supplemental package doesn’t offer any real substantial special features. The entire package––three brief featurettes, a deleted scene, and two bonus trailers––can be burned through in a half an hour. The Blu-ray is authored with the resume playback function.

"Delivery Man: Building Family"(2.40:1/1.78:1, 1080p; 15 minutes 43 seconds) is a cast centric EPK featurette with writer/director Ken Scott, actors Vince Vaughn, Cobie Smulders, Chris Pratt, Bobby Moynihan, several producers and other cast members. The piece offers a brief overview of how the film came to be––and yet somehow manages to never mention it’s a remake (?)––with a heavy focus on finding the right actors to play Vaughn’s children.

The next featurette, “Vince Vaughn: Off the Cuff" (2.40:1/1.78:1, 1080p; 4 minutes 33 seconds), gives the cast and crew a chance to wax about the wonders of Vaughn’s improvisational acting method, while simultaneously praising Ken’s script for being so good no one really found a need to go off-book. Aren't those comments somewhat contradictory? A few outtakes show the evolution of some of the improvised moments, particularly the Wozniak family dinner scene.

Vaughn, Smulders, Pratt and Moynihan talk about the rarity of on set blunders, which is perhaps why there are so few genuine outtakes in a featurette aptly titled bloopers (2.40:1/1.78:1, 1080p; 4 minutes 35 seconds).

And finally, "You're Under Arrest" (2.40:1, 1080p; 1 minute 36 seconds) is a deleted scene. Emma, in uniform, finds David's hydroponic pot crop and threatens to arrest him.

Pre-menu bonus trailers for:

– "Need for Speed" (2.40:1, 1080p, 1 minute 33 seconds).
- "Thor: The Dark World" on DVD and Blu-ray (2.40:1, 1080p; 1 minute 4 seconds).

Packaging

Touchstone Home Entertainment/Buena Vista, distributing the film for DreamWorks, brings “Delivery Man” to Blu-ray in a simple single disc release. The region free BD-50 is packaged in a Vortex keep case.

Overall

Ken Scott’s “Delivery Man”, a remake of the writer/director’s original French-Canadian film “Starbuck” (2011), isn’t quite as solid in comparison. But it’s a fitfully enjoyable film on its own terms, only somewhat undone by the casting of Vince Vaughn as a lovable loser who impressively fathered 533 kids. He’s begrudgingly believable as a petulant, perennial, underachieving ass, but the actor fails to consistently sell the sincerity needed in the latter half of the story. The picture’s oddly less comedic than its predecessor. For whatever reason, Scott’s chosen to play the premise as straight drama for most of the remake’s runtime. The Blu-ray has excellent video and satisfying audio, but weak extras. “Delivery Man” isn't terrible, but my recommendation, at least assuming you don’t mind subtitles, is to seek out the better film on which it's based.

The Film: C+ Video: A+ Audio: B Extras: D+ Overall: B-

 


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