Vince Vaughn has carved out a successful career playing characters who aren't the most productive members of society. And those characters are usually played for big laughs.
He portrays the same kind of role in "Delivery Man," a guy whose biggest talent is being a frequent sperm donor, but this time the laughs are more subdued and — dare it be said — sweet. Vaughn's found a way to take a character who, by all accounts, should be annoying and make him endearing.
David Wozniak (Vaughn), a less-than-competent meat delivery truck driver, finds out the donations he made to a fertility clinic 20 years ago — under the fake name of Starbuck — have made him the father of 533 children. He discovers the news when 142 of his sons and daughters file a lawsuit to get him to reveal his identity.
The prolific papa is advised by his friend and lawyer (Chris Pratt) to avoid any contact with his offspring because of all the legal ramifications. But the film would have ended early had he not started to dig into the lives of a few of the names on the long list.
Complicating the news is the announcement by Wozniak's girlfriend, Emma (Cobie Smulders), that she's pregnant. The fact that Wozniak's lived such a messed up life (without even knowing about his very extended family) makes her reluctant to allow him to be part of the baby's life. He must prove he's changed for the better.
His plan to improve includes implanting himself into the lives of some of his children. Through a series of contrived events, Wozniak finds himself helping his drug addicted daughter (Britt Robertson), acting hopeful son (Jack Reynor) and several others. All the time he's working with his offspring, Wozniak debates whether or not the right thing to do would be to come forward and reveal his identity.
"Delivery Man" works because Vaughn is so comfortable playing this kind of character. Because it's easy to believe that the delivery man could be a big time loser, it's easier to connect with the character as he takes this odd journey. There's an everyman feel to the way Vaughn plays the role that — while the situation is outlandish — makes it easy to relate to the questions about family that serve as the heart of the movie.
"Delivery Man" is a pleasant surprise. The story line about being the father to hundreds had all the earmarks of being an over-the-top comedy. Instead, this is one of the sweetest family movies released this year.
"Delivery Man," rated PG-13 for drug references, language, violence. Stars Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders, Britt Robertson. Directed by Ken Scott. Running time: 103 minutes. Grade: B
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.