An underachieving deadbeat thinks he has what it takes to be a dad
There’s a lot of ways to define “father” in the movie Delivery Man. And the one you agree with will likely determine how much you like the film. Brett (Chris Pratt) is a disheveled, disbarred lawyer and father of four young children, whom he openly belittles while making their lunches and ordering them to bed. David Wozniak (Vince Vaughn), on the other hand, is an unreliable single guy who drives a delivery truck for the family business. He’s growing marijuana in his apartment, is $100,000 in debt and hasn’t called or texted his pregnant girlfriend (Cobie Smulders) for weeks. He’s also fathered 533 children through a sperm donor clinic that he actively contributed to 20 years earlier.
Now about 150 of his offspring want to know the identity of their father and they’ve gone to court to have the anonymity clause repealed.
Surprisingly the news of his bountiful brood doesn’t have the effect on David that you might expect. While he is initially shocked, he soon decides that secretly finding his kids and becoming their guardian angel will be his new purpose in life—a life that to this point has been plagued by one bad decision after another. (How he plans to pay for this philanthropy or keep his job while he’s gallivanting around the city all day is never addressed.) His friend Brett vehemently discourages his pal’s plan, but still hands over an envelop containing the profiles of all the plaintiffs in the court case.
Gloating might be the best word to describe David when the first profile he picks is that of a professional basketball star (Kevin Hopkins). But this clandestine dad has to decide how committed he is to fatherhood when he discovers one of his sons (Sébastien René) is severely disabled.
For a goofy comedy that includes plenty of crass sexual innuendo and a strong sexual expletive, the script has some unexpected (although also brief) moments of insight. The women who used the sperm donor clinic are completely absent in this movie. Without addressing why they chose to raise fatherless children, the film looks at the long-term effects of sperm donations on the offspring and advocates for the children’s right to know their parentage.
But that is where the definition of a father gets murky. While many of these kids may only want medical records and a genetic history, what about those who desire a father figure in their lives? Don’t they deserve the kind of role model that makes more than a one-time appearance around a campfire to sing Kumbaya or an occasional show on the sidelines to applaud a child’s efforts?
Compared to the beleaguered Brett who seems to live in his housecoat, the film makes the cameo-appearance dad look pretty good. Unfortunately, making fatherhood look as easy as the Delivery Man does, is really a disservice to every man who walks the floor with his baby, reads to his kids, talks with his teen and coaches a soccer team while still managing to hold down a job.