Delivery Man - Catholic Courier

Delivery Man

By John Mulderig
Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) — "Delivery Man" (DreamWorks) is a morally paradoxical comedy that begins with an objectively sinful premise, but then follows a thoroughly ethical trajectory as its protagonist tries to cope with the consequences of his misguided actions.

Vince Vaughn plays David Wozniak, a kindhearted underachiever leading an immature, desultory life as he pursues the occupation of the title on behalf of his family’s meat business. Financial speculation has left him with a large debt to a loan shark, while his neglect of his girlfriend, Emma (Cobie Smulders), causes him to discover only belatedly that she is pregnant with his baby.

Almost simultaneously, David is further taken aback by the revelation that his anonymous donations to a fertility clinic 20 years ago have resulted in the birth of hundreds of children, some of whom have now brought a lawsuit to uncover his identity.

As his lawyer and best friend, Brett (Chris Pratt), works to thwart the plaintiffs, David contrives to get to know some of them, aiming to play the role of guardian angel in their lives. His search leads, most prominently, to broke, drug-addicted Kristen (Britt Robertson) and to frustrated barista and aspiring actor Josh (Jack Reynor).

Though writer-director Ken Scott’s reworking of his 2011 French-Canadian feature "Starbuck" — which he co-wrote with Martin Petit — never condemns artificial insemination, it vividly illustrates the emotional deprivation that can result from the practice. Thus, in the course of their testimony in court, several of David’s offspring recount how painful the absence of a father has been for them.

Scott’s script also lets the audience know, almost apologetically, that the money David was receiving two decades back was being raised, from the start, for a laudable and touching purpose. Such good ends can never, of course, justify immoral means. Yet the fact that Scott feels the need to camouflage David’s connection to the clinic by wrapping it in a noble aim is perhaps telling.

One of the young people with whom David bonds is his severely mentally disabled son, Ryan (Sebastien Rene). Their interaction sends a strong pro-life message about the intrinsic dignity and worth of all human beings — and about the need to care sensitively for the most vulnerable. Additionally, the identifiably Catholic institution in which Ryan lives is portrayed in a refreshingly positive light.

Another of David’s progeny is shown to be gay. The initially startled David comes to treat the lad with the same paternal affection he’s struggling to bestow on all the rest, as well he should. But the subject is treated fleetingly, so there’s no sense of a larger, more socially undermining agenda being advanced.

In fact, the sensitive, somewhat sentimental proceedings lead on to a conclusion that largely equates personal growth with adherence to traditional family values. But there’s no getting away from the fact that the plot’s jumping-off point is glaringly at odds with Catholic teaching. Thus considerable discernment will be required of those few grownup viewers for whom this is possibly acceptable fare.

The film contains brief nongraphic violence, tacit acceptance of immoral fertility practices and of an incidental character’s homosexual lifestyle, a drug theme, some sexual and mild scatological humor, a couple of same-sex kisses, at least one use each of profanity and rough language and a few crude expressions. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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