Although we have yet to see an official trailer or production still, I already have mixed feelings about “The Delivery Man.” This upcoming dramedy starring Vince Vaughn follows a middle-aged slouch whose life is turned on its head when he discovers that he’s fathered more than 500 children as a sperm donor – 142 of whom wish to determine who their biological dad is.
Vaughn’s spotty track record in recent flicks is not the sole reason my expectations remain low, but more so the fact that it’s an American remake of a near-flawless French-Canadian film, “Starbuck.”
“Starbuck” screened at the Toronto film festival nearly two years ago, and after making the rounds at a number of stateside fests, has finally hit American theaters in recent weeks. “Starbuck” is now playing at Harkins Camelview 5 in Scottsdale. The film opens Friday, April 19, at Harkins Shea 14.
What makes the film so remarkable is its ability to transform what could have been a gross-out, “man-child” comedy into something particularly poignant and sweet. Through small acts of kindness, David Wozniak (played by the magnificent Patrick Huard) reaches out to his many children - whether that means consoling one daughter about her drug addiction or following another as she walks down the street, berating the drooling construction workers for their whistles and catcalls.
As David – who used the alias “Starbuck” when donating sperm – Huard is effortlessly likable, with a subtlety to his performance that I find practically impossible for someone like Vaughn to match. His character is not blubbering and immature, but merely someone that may have made some poor decisions when he was younger and never fully realized his potential to impact others’ lives.
The film underlines his amends-making with the birth of a new baby, a child that his girlfriend (Julie LeBreton) is not so sure she wants to be raised by the absent David. You root for him to embrace his paternal role and turn his life around, and even when the film skims the edge of conventional toward the end, you’ll still find yourself irrevocably happy by the time the credits roll.
The story’s primary drama circles the impending class-action lawsuit dozens of David’s children are looking to file against him, which has its shards of implausibility but luckily doesn’t dwell on the details for too long. While there is some very clever repartee – particularly between David and his schlubby lawyer friend (Antoine Bertrand) – the film is at its very best when it opts to let a moment land dialogue-free.
Despite some initial apprehension, David tenderly helps his severely handicapped son with everyday activities; quietly acknowledging that all his children may not be soccer stars (as one of them just so happens to be), but that doesn’t make their lives any less special. Aspiring actors, lifeguards, street musicians – they’re all just idealistic young people with unique identities, sharing the common desire for a father.
It’s a relief to know that “Starbuck” director Ken Scott is helming the remake, so as long as the studio doesn’t seize absolute creative control, we can at least hope for a pretty faithful adaptation. Still, I highly recommend that you check out this film before “The Delivery Man” arrives in October. Smart, satisfying and heartfelt, movies like “Starbuck” don’t come around too often, but when they do, it’s a crime to miss out.