Movie review: ‘Delivery Man,’ 2 stars

A couple years ago, the East Village’s Anthology Film Archives held a repertory series called "Auto-Remakes," which spotlighted directors who re-made their own movies. It’s a strange phenomenon but more common than you might think: Filmmakers ranging from Alfred Hitchcock to Michael Haneke have taken second cracks at their work.

I haven’t seen "Starbuck," the French-Canadian film from 2011 that writer-director Ken Scott rehashes as a Vince Vaughn vehicle in "Delivery Man." It’s clearly a logical candidate for an auto-remake, regardless. The premise is filled with potential: an aimless thirty-something man learns that a period of regular donations to a sperm bank some two decades ago has resulted in his fathering 533 children.

What was once easy money transforms into every commitment-phobe’s nightmare when a healthy swath of David Wozniak’s (Vaughn) offspring decides that the time’s right to meet daddy, filing a lawsuit demanding that he reveal his identity.

Look, it’s probably not possible to donate enough sperm to sire so many children, but most movies are nothing if not designed for suspension of disbelief. Vaughn pulls off the freak-out stage pretty well, and the screenplay finds some clever comedy in the character’s internal turmoil, which manifests in his guardian angel-like involvement in some of his children’s lives.

This story cries out for a sarcastic treatment, though, and the movie takes itself far too seriously. The concept is so utterly ridiculous that you have to take it to an extreme, playing up David’s horror and repulsion while diminishing the sentimentality. At the very least, it needs to be regarded with an absurdist sensibility, a tacit acknowledgment that this can only really work as a satire commenting on the archetypal man-child. It’d be great to see what someone like Neil LaBute could have done here.

As it stands now, "Delivery Man" is an utterly sincere treatment of parenthood. The film is pleasant enough, offering a chance for Vaughn to stretch his long-dormant dramatic muscles, but it makes the mistake of thinking it has something to say.