by Sam Allard
In the American carbon copy, a poorly cast Vaughn is David Wozniak, a (theoretically) lovably unreliable meat delivery guy who learns he's fathered 533 children through a fertility clinic snafu. This is a fun little indie comedy premise.
Not only scene for scene but literally line for line — shot for shot, as the film majors say — The Delivery Man follows the Starbuck storyline. There's a trial pending in which certain among Wozniak's children want to know their father's identity. Against the bidding of his unlicensed family-man lawyer (Chris Pratt, one or two steps removed from his Andy Dwyer character on Parks and Rec) Wozniak randomly sets out to see his children and the people they've become — they're all young adults at this point.
Meanwhile, he's dealing with a girlfriend who's suddenly pregnant, an accumulation of debts to anonymous thugs, and the censures of his father and brothers who constantly plead with him to show up to work on time and generally grow the hell up.
The outlandish premise of both films ensures pre-programmed comedy, and the script provides layers of tenderness that Vince Vaughn works extremely hard to squash. The 6'6" smooth talking Wedding Crashers alum is just not right for this part. Have a look at the trailers for the French and American versions below:
The success of Starbuck was due, in large part, to Patrick Huard, a doofy Montreal actor-comedian who believably embodied the slacker-who-always-screws-up-but-to-whom-we-always-give-the-benefit-of-the-doubt.
Vaughn, on the other hand, is a much harder loser to forgive. He doesn't know what to do with himself in this role. Half the time he's affecting over earnestness. He has tears in his eyes more than once, for instance, and those moments are really tough to watch. Failing being suuuuuuuper sincere, he often just reverts to his Vince Vaughn I'm talking really quickly while gesturing with my hands and hammering a point home with repeated examples thing. He's a gifted comedian with a recognizable schtick, but it doesn't work as Wozniak. He kills the charm here.
There's a chance this movie might be more watchable for folks who haven't seen Starbuck. But my feeling is that if you haven't seen Starbuck, you should just check it out on Netflix instead of seeing The Delivery Man in theaters. (Pratt's lawyer character in Starbuck is a Cleveland Browns' fan, so that's fun).
It's just frustrating that studios feel this constant need to make successful foreign films more palatable to American audiences by re-shooting them in English. And this isn't a Girl With a Dragon Tattoo situation, where an American remake signified major upgrades in production value via Hollywood budgets — though again, I'd take Noomi Rapace over Rooney Mara seven days out of seven.
The Delivery Man is a replica of a really delightful heartwarming flick. But it's not quite able to be delightful or heartwarming in its own right. It often feels flimsy or synthetic. And whether or not it's made from lower-quality parts, it definitely downgraded on the most essential piece.