Delivery Man (2013)

RB score:  4/10
I like Hallmark movies. Yes, I know they are relentlessly formulaic and have absolutely no connection to reality.  That’s part of why I like them.  Everyone is nice, the endings are always happy, the scenery is always gorgeous.  The cinematography sparkles with lush use of color whether we are in the city or the country.  Not only is everyone just no-holds barred nice, even the occasional villains are only marginally unpleasant people with no real evil and who come around in the end. Also, some of our favorite out of work actors and actresses can get a paycheck. What’s not to like?  If there’s a blizzard and the roads are closed, if I have the flu, or if it’s just been a bad work week, I curl up with one of these mind-numbing visual exercises in escapism and do just that, escape.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I know the movies are not only not particularly artistic, or original (did i mention that plagiarism abounds) but potentially harmful:  chocolates aren’t really good for you either and these are like eating an entire box of them instead of actual food.  It is crucial to maintain some awareness that just as excessive sugar isn’t good for you, blind allegiance to these movies isn’t healthy for your mind.
There are definite disturbing undercurrents in Hallmark movies.  Most notably, there are a surprising number of dead mothers.  Yes, dead.  I’m rather surprised more women are not disturbed by this.  Often, either the heroine or the hero will have grown up without a mother, or the prospective romantic partner did.  Or the prospective male interest is himself a widower (never divorced) raising a child alone. It’s impossible not to notice the body count if you watch enough of these movies.
So what does this have to do with Delivery Man?
In a very real sense, Vince Vaughan is starring in the ultimate Hallmark movie, for a male audience.  He plays David, a lackadaisical 40ish delivery man, who drives a truck for his family’s meat business.  David has close to zero sense of responsibility.  He owes money to the mob and he spends money right and left that he doesn’t have, all the while devoting scant attention to, or time at, work. Since his father is the employer we can understand why he hasn’t been fired.  His girlfriend Emma played by Cobie Smulders is a police officer who has grown weary of David’s lack of maturity, and is ready to give him the heave-ho although she is carrying his child.  His best friend Brett, played by Chris Pratt, is a harried father of four who evidently lost his law license but nevertheless is the only person available to represent David when he is named in a class action suit by 124 of the 533 children who were born with his sperm, which he sold during his younger years. The offspring would like to learn the identity of their biological father. “I need a real lawyer!”  David tells Brett, who replies with the obvious, which is that David doesn’t have the money for a real lawyer.  Incidentally, Chris Pratt’s portrayal of Brett garners 2 of the 4 points I give Delivery Man.  Vince Vaughn and Cobie Smulders can do better.
On first blush this would appear to be radically different from a Hallmark movie.  Certainly the humor is more cutting, the plot is less wholesome (to say the least) and the references to sex and violence would simply not ever appear in a Hallmark movie which all adhere to a formula that ends in a kiss (either before or after they get married depending on, presumably, how radical the filmmakers are feeling).  But the oddly sinister undercurrent that appears in Hallmark movies is front and center in Delivery Man:  where are the mothers of these hundreds of kids?  For that matter, where is anyone’s mother in the movie?
David, having been presented with an envelope containing the profiles of the 124 plaintiffs, embarks on a haphazard stalking mission of sorts, to look them up in person. The children are all young adults now.  The first profile David reads is of a son, who is now a professional basketball player.  David positively hotfoots it over to Madison Square Garden to cheer on, in the most rabid fan style possible, his newly discovered offspring.  Another child plays his guitar on the street for money and David entreats passersby to throw money into the guitar case.  He saves another child, a daughter, from a drug overdose and waits the next morning to see that she reports to her new job on time.  He watches a coffeeshop for one son so that the son can go audition for a part.  Basically, the audience sees that David takes his role as a father with a newfound sense of urgency, caring and responsibility. This leads him to spend even less time at work, but as we have seen, the script for this movie was not tasked with demonstrating normal or even minimal accountability.
How can this premise possibly turn out well?  Again, we return to Hallmark.  First of all, this wildly implausible storyline is wrapped up in a gift box every bit as neatly as the Hallmark films in order to ensure that sweetly satisfying ending.  Emma takes him back.  His father gives him money to pay off his debts.  Brett wins the court case but David decides to reveal his identity to the kids anyways.  I can’t even really call these spoilers since you know ahead of time how every single Hallmark movie is going to end.
The real kicker though?  The reason I call this the ultimate Hallmark movie?  This movie completely ignores the identify of 533 mothers!  You can’t kill them all off, I suppose, so let’s just ignore their existence. We don’t learn a single solitary fact about any of the mothers who brought these kids in the world, in fact the sperm donor is credited, in so many words, as the only reason they exist.  No other women in the movie exists either.  Brett has 4 kids, but we never meet either their mother or his mother (who he is always complaining about).  David’s family business has no women or girls working there.  No, the only woman allowed to have an actual identity is the one that David is currently in a relationship with: Emma, who delivers baby #534 at the film’s end.  Hopefully they never make a sequel; if they did, you can bet that Emma would no longer appear in it.
The message according to Hallmark and the Delivery Man:  Women, you are a uterus and that’s it.  Once you’ve given birth, your usefulness as a human being is over.  You may or may not be killed off, just don’t make any mistake thinking that you have any purpose on this earth other than breeding.  And that, my friends is why I’m actually being generous in scoring this movie a 4, and why I should probably swear off Hallmark movies too.