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posted: 11/21/2013 5:45 AM

Vince Vaughn stretches his comedy wings in 'Delivery Man'

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  • New York meat delivery guy David Wozniak (Vince Vaughn) addresses many of his 533 children in the comedy "Delivery Man."

      New York meat delivery guy David Wozniak (Vince Vaughn) addresses many of his 533 children in the comedy "Delivery Man."

  • Brett (Chris Pratt), left, hates fatherhood while his pal David (Vince Vaughn) has fathered 533 children in "Delivery Man."

      Brett (Chris Pratt), left, hates fatherhood while his pal David (Vince Vaughn) has fathered 533 children in "Delivery Man."

 
 

Call it a feel-good comedy.

In the formulaic, pro-fatherhood "Delivery Man," Vince Vaughn's New York meat delivery guy David Wozniak fathers 533 children without even realizing it.

Those numbers would be impressive even to King Solomon with his 700 wives and 300 concubines.

"It's impossible to be the father of 533 children!" Dave says.

"It's impossible to be the father of four children!" says best pal Brett, an attorney and the exasperated dad of four.

Brett, played with throwaway flippancy by "Parks and Recreation" star Chris Pratt, usurps Vaughn's usual job providing raw comic relief.

Brett says awful things about his kids in their presence, then insists that they tune out the frequency of his voice, so what does it matter?

Besides, "they know they're too old for an abortion!" Brett tells Dave.

"Delivery Man," Ken Scott's American remake of his own French Canadian comedy "Starbuck," packs some funny moments in between scenes that strain to achieve massive poignant and emotional payoffs.

This modest comedy packs a wonderful message about how people should be in charge of their own identities -- a lesson delivered without a shred of subtlety by Dave in a sweet, summary speech far too articulate for a character this verbally challenged.

Naively sincere and good-hearted, Dave lacks the skill set for adulthood and for pleasing his hardworking emigrant father (charismatic Polish actor Andrzej Blumenfeld), owner of the family business Wozniak & Sons Meats.

As a lowly truck driver, Dave can't even be counted on to get deliveries done on time. He grows marijuana at home and apparently collects parking tickets as a hobby.

Just when Dave decides he might want to grow up, his curiously distant girlfriend Emma (a woefully underutilized Cobie Smulders) informs Dave she's about to become a mother, and him a father for the first time.

Or so they think.

(Cue the sound of the needle-scratching-across-a-vinyl-record cliché.)

Dave gets hit with a legal notice that 142 of the 533 kids created from the sperm he donated for money many years ago have sued to discover their biological father's identity. The offspring only know Dave's code name, Starbuck.

Turns out the fertility clinic he visited many, many, many times during his youth screwed up and inadvertently kept returning to the same Dave well for more reproductive assets.

In short order, Dave does exactly what Brett tells him not to do: open the envelope containing the personal information about the offspring suing him.

Dave visits one, a professional basketball player, and within one quarter, begins cheering for the guy as if he were his proud papa.

Hooked on fatherhood one-step-removed, Dave tracks down many of his litigious children. He discovers one is gay. Another son, a would-be-actor, works at a coffee shop (not Starbucks).

Dave runs around New York, chasing down his offspring, protecting them like a guardian angel and involving himself in their lives while presumably missing a lot of meat deliveries.

"Delivery Man" uses its far-fetched premise to remind us about the value of family, the one that includes everyone, regardless of race, color or handicaps. Yes, it may be a bit overloaded with Kumbaya, but Scott soft-sells the message with sincerity.

This movie may not be groundbreaking, but it does enable Vaughn, formerly of Buffalo Grove, to break out of his comedy acting rut and become the put-upon character rather than the put-uponer one.

After many years of playing quick-witted motormouths capable of talking themselves out of preposterous situations, Vaughn kicks back a bit to play a sweet, lost kid trapped inside an adult's body. His fills his newfound father character with empathy and goodness.

"This could be the most beautiful thing that ever happened to me!" Dave tells Brett.

Vaughn might say the same about Dave.

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