A delivery full of surprises

????????????Delivery Man (2013, Directed By Ken Scott. ★★★.5)

3SR: A welcome break from Vince Vaughn’s tired man-in-a-muddle patter and a fresh story make for fond viewing.

Starring: Vince Vaughn, Cobie Smulders and Chris Pratt

Comedy. 1hr 44mins. M for offensive language.

In these days of hyper-marketing, when every new film is tweaked, teased and pushed at it’s “target audience” with the relentless zeal of a used car salesman, films are rarely given a chance to surprise you.

Apparently the Canadian team behind Delivery Man, a US remake of their hit Starbuck, didn’t get that Hollywood memo.

Because, in defiance of the film’s one-note posters featuring grim, pudding faced star Vince Vaughn, Delivery Man is an unexpectedly sweet little film. And no one was more surprised to find that than me.

The surprise comes care of a fresh, albeit contrived story and Vaughn turning in a uncharacteristically muted performance to tell it.

He plays David Wozniak, a life long loser who discovers he has fathered 533 children after a money making stint as a sperm donor in his 20s.

When 140 or so of his unplanned begats sue the clinic they were conceived at to reveal his identity, the middle aged man-in-a-muddle must decide whether to daddy-up or take the money and run.

From the outside, Delivery Man seems to be yet another vehicle for Vaughn’s brand of lackadaisical sports-lout-with-a-heart comedy. It’s anything but, though.

Touching and often hilarious, the film unpacks the idea of fatherhood and the choices people make to connect – or not – with family, to find a tender-hearted message: kindness and love always win out.

It should be teeth-achingly Saccharine, but Canadian director and screenwriter Ken Scott’s indie style (the film feels almost European, for all it’s set in New York) sets the film apart from Hollywood’s usual boorish approach to comedy.

Wozniak’s bluff, affectionate family and his gaggle of gorgeous progeny all add charm and detail to what could otherwise have been an unappealing lecture on togetherness.

It’s not a perfect film, though; a bum note is Scott relying a little too often on awkward stereotypes to get the breadth of Wozniak’s kids’ diversity across.

And, as refreshing as Vaughn’s toned down performance is, he seems out of his depth with more subtle emotions.

At times he looks more like the victim of a stick-up than a complex man trying to come to terms with his choices.

Still, Vaughn’s not left to carry this delivery alone.

He gets ample back-up from a chorus of fresh faced kids, each more adorable than the last, with stand out turns from Britt Robertson as his recovering addict daughter and Josh Reynor as his aspiring actor son.

But the teamster lugging the really heavy stuff is Chris Pratt as Wozniak’s best buddy and feckless lawyer, Brett. His deadpan delivery of Brett’s amoral playbook are the comedy heart of the film – delightfully brash and irreverent.

In the end, there’s no denying the charm of a film, however contrived, that celebrates the randomness of life and the infinite possibilities of love. Mushy, but welcome, goodness.

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