You hear it all the time: Parenting is a tough job. Regardless of how many children a person has, it is not easy to be a parent and the task is full of second guesses. But imagine coming home one day to find out you had 500 children, grown up and looking to meet you. That would be enough to send most people heading for witness protection, right? In the new film "Delivery Man," upon hearing that he has helped create over 500 children, one man finds purpose in his life while the audience just loses an hour and a half of theirs.
"Delivery Man," the uninspired remake of the French Canadian film "Starbuck," offers a look at how slacker, meat delivery man David Wozniak handles the news of impending fatherhood. Sure, his girlfriend has just told him that she's pregnant, but due to his unreliability she isn't convinced he should be a part of their baby's life. More pressing is the matter that when he was younger, he made regular donations at a sperm bank, which resulted in producing 533 children, many of whom want to know their biological father. David, doing the only rational thing, decides to start anonymously seeking out the children to be their guardian angel.
A set up like that is fertile ground for a comedy. But the laughs never quite come. In following the source material, "Delivery Man" is too scattered and unfocused here. Rather than concentrating on David's journey to fatherhood - either with his newly discovered brood or his soon-to-be-born son - other subplots keep popping up, like the debt he owes to some thugs. It takes away from the main plot and never really fully ties in enough to warrant the attention. Even when dealing with his children the film tries to include too many, rather than focusing on helping just a couple, so that each son or daughter gets one big scene and then mostly disappears from the film, save for the occasional crowd shot.
If you get a sense of déjà vu while watching "Delivery Man" it is because this remake doesn't stray too far from its source material. In fact, it delivers some of the same punchlines word for word. Director Ken Scott, who was at the helm of both versions, has essentially made the same film twice. What hasn't accounted for in the translation is the difference in sensibilities between French Canadian audiences and American ones. What will work in a French Canadian film won't necessarily work here, and it shows in the final product.
The highlight of the film is Chris Pratt as David's best friend and lawyer, who is also struggling to keep his sanity with a houseful of ankle biters all his own. Pratt manages to deliver laughs and say the things everyone is always thinking without coming off too harsh towards his children. He acts both as the voice of the audience and as the voice of reason in a film that otherwise doesn't have much of either.
At its heart, "Delivery Man" is about how everyone handles being a parent and the relationships within families. There are a few sparks of emotion between David and his family, but the scenes always end before anything can ignite. Throughout most of the film, in a failed attempt to gain laughs, characters try to mask their fear of parenthood with snarky comments about the horrors of having children - including a few too many abortion jokes. In the end, the children have all arrived, the moral of the story becomes clear and the "It is all worth it after all" takeaway comes across a little too heavy-handed.
Like a Thanksgiving turkey, "Delivery Man" feels like it has been stuffed to the brim with filler, offering only a few real moments. Had additional creative juices been introduced into the mix, the film could have been able to establish itself as something different from "Starbuck." Instead, it offers a superficial look at one man's journey as he prepares himself for fatherhood and never really delivers any kind of emotional pull. Much like what happens on Thanksgiving, "Delivery Man" is likely to put you in the mood for a nap before the end credits even begin rolling.