Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Cinema File #279: "The Delivery Man" Review

Is there any kind of movie more unnecessary than an American remake of a modern foreign film? Even in the context of remakes in general, which typically at least allow a few decades to pass between reboots, these translations more often than not take recent movies and Americanize them under the premise that we as a country are so small minded that a story universal enough to appeal to a domestic audience would succeed but for all the kooky sounding foreigners in it. Are people really so averse to subtitles or the occasional odd cultural idiom, and even if they are, shouldn't that be something we're embarrassed about enough not to flaunt our willful ignorance with a remake? In this light we have The Delivery Man, a heartwarming family film all about togetherness and acts of goodwill towards men just in time for Thanksgiving that hits all the right notes of its nearly identical French language predecessor Starbuck, and while I can't say I wasn't entertained, my enjoyment only ultimately stemmed from the fact that I didn't see the original until the day after.

The Delivery Man follows Vince Vaughn as Steve Wozniak, a schlubby meat truck driver who finds out that due to a mix up at a sperm bank he is now the father of 533 children, a large body of whom have started a class action lawsuit to discover the identity of their anonymous donor dad. When he receives a file containing the names of his new army of kids, he decides to secretly benefit their lives as a guardian angel, learning to accept his own responsibility and grow out of his arrested development in the process. If you've seen Starbuck, there is literally no reason to see this movie at all, unless the fact that the main character plays basketball instead of soccer somehow makes it better for you. In the hands of the same director, it is almost a completely shot for shot, line for line reproduction, so much so that Vaughn's normal off the cuff improvisation appears to have been forcibly reined in. As a result, its probably the most un-Vince Vaughn-like performance he's given since the last shot for shot remake he was in, which technically makes it one of the better ones, but not in any way that makes this really worthwhile considering the original is free to watch on Netflix streaming.

Its not a bad story at all, and in fact I would recommend it, if not for the easy availability of its source material. Its charming and funny enough, and a little more challenging than your typical family dramedy like this with among other twists the inclusion of a special needs child, but again, if you can get the first one online, you get all of the good stuff without Vince Vaughn, who for all his committed lack of Vince Vaughny-ness is still not a capable enough actor to handle pathos with any degree of subtlety. Ironically, I'd say I probably find Vaughn a little more believable in the role, if only because I tend to associate a french accent with suave sophistication no matter the context, and overall the more schmaltzy tone felt in the score and performances of the American version might even fit the story a little better. The problem is, I can't say its enough to justify paying for the price of a movie ticket when you so obviously don't have to. If there was some embargo on French Canadian cinema, sure, but as it stands, just read the damn French one, or get a dub.

Of course, that's assuming that most people have Netflix, which I only assume because its so cheap and worth having that nearly everyone I know has it. What's more, for the price of a day out at the theater to see The Delivery Man, you could probably buy your first month of Netflix and just watch Starbuck in the privacy of your own home, and you wouldn't even have to pay that until the one month free trial is up. So, I suppose, in summation, buy Netflix if you haven't already, and then watch a delightful little French movie, among a vast selection of other titles. I didn't intend for this review to shill and they don't sponsor me or anything, but I just feel like I've been swindled into paying for something I could have easily gotten for free, or rather paid again for something I already paid for, and I'd like to do my part to make sure nobody else falls for the same trick. Technically speaking, either version of this film is worth watching, so unless you are one of those small minded people who give America a bad name, go with the cost saving option.

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