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Children of a Lesser Vaughn  

Delivery man's schlocky identity crisis

The quality control folks in the Hollywood schlock factory are a meticulous bunch: They know their craft, they execute it with pragmatism, and for all they lack in ambition, they make up in consistency. Every now and again, though, the schlock factory's well-oiled mechanisms pump out the occasional defect—a film that, though decked out in the same sentimental blister pack as the rest of the celluloid bathos, is actually an ill-conceived, morally rudderless wolf in sheep's clothing. A film that, in all of its architecture, purports to be an innocuous collection of sentimental tropes and platitudes, but whose content is so wrongheaded that it verges on the uncanny. Delivery Man is such an aberration.

A mass-market, virtually shot-for-shot remake of French Canadian writer/director Ken Scott's previous 2011 film, Starbuck, Delivery Man has all the makings of a cozily formulaic situation comedy: Loveable loser and prolific sperm-bank patron Vince Vaughn discovers that he is the sire of 533 children—and that a quarter of them have filed a class-action lawsuit in an effort to reveal his identity. His totally natural and not at all creepy response? To begin straight-up stalking his unwitting progeny in their daily lives. He hangs out with them at their service jobs, he gets wasted with them, he impersonates a pizza delivery man to gain access to their apartments—yeah, normal stuff like that. At virtually every juncture, Vaughn's character comes to what is almost always the most irresponsible, psychically damaging conclusion possible—getting his "son" fired from his barista job, abetting his heroin-addicted "daughter" in evading rehab, etc.—with every situation safely sewn up in only the most heartwarming and totally not emotionally catastrophic way.

But for all of its many minor offenses, Delivery Man's greatest transgression is the mercilessness of its tone—its relentless insistence that, somehow, all of this pathology isn't just totally normal, but also sweet and redemptive. It's not so much insulting, as it is bizzaro-world disorienting.


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