Did you know this weekend's Delivery Man is a remake of a French-Canadian film called Starbuck? And that both films were cowritten and directed by Ken Scott? Heck, you probably don't know Starbuck is currently streaming on Netflix at the same time the Vince Vaughn-led remake comes out.
Like any obsessive movie nerds, we decided that this entire situation was a chance to do a little experiment. What would happen if we watched both films back-to-back? How different are they? How similar? Which one is better?
When most foreign movies get a Hollywood remake, they're reconstructed by a dozen new writers. The craziest thing about Delivery Man is that it is, almost scene-for-scene, identical to Starbuck in every way. There are a few cultural changes (basketball replaces soccer in the American version), but if you've seen the original, you've literally seen the remake. However, the edge goes to Starbuck, which refuses to smooth out its characters' rougher edges and treats its lead in a slightly more honest way.
In Starbuck, Patrick Huard plays a middle-aged slacker named David Wozniak. In Delivery Man, Vince Vaughn plays a middle-aged slacker named David Wozniak. Both characters are lovable losers and both go through an identical transformation, but Huard's more subdued performance runs circles around Vaughn. Although Vaughn does ditch his trademark fast-talking wiseass shtick, his limited range is put to the test in every scene of Delivery Man. Huard's performance isn't masterful, but it's more believable.
The Best Friend
In both films, David is assisted by his best friend and lawyer, who takes his case to court and attempts to hide Starbuck's true identity from his 533 children. Antoine Bertrand certainly isn't bad as Avocat, but his sweaty, oddball performance is off-putting and it's hard to believe he's actually friends with David. On the other hand, Chris Pratt's Brett is the best part of Delivery Man and his every appearance promises that the film will get better for a few minutes. He's so funny and charming that you wish he switched roles with Vince Vaughn.
Winner: Delivery Man
The Love Interest
Both Starbuck and Delivery Man are hugely guilty of underserving their female characters. For a movie about children and parenthood, women and mothers are few and far between. Valerie and Emma are simple plot devices that exist solely to help the main guy learn a few life lessons. However, Delivery's Colbie Smulders gets a little more screen time and just a little more depth than Starbuck's Julie LeBreton, so she wins this one by default.
Winner: Delivery Man
Tone and Direction
Although it's unafraid of Hollywood-style sentiment, Starbuck looks nothing like a Hollywood film. Shot with a slightly grimy indie style, it's a film with personality in every frame that gives you a true sense of the film's Montreal setting. The same cannot be said for Delivery Man, which looks like your typical American studio comedy. If you like static medium shots on a tripod with bland, flat lighting, Delivery Man is for you. We're not sure who asked director Ken Scott (who made both films) to drain the personality from the film, but he should be fired.
Since they share the same story, Starbuck and Delivery Man share many of the same jokes. Few of these jokes are big set pieces, so both rely on quieter, more character-driven jokes to keep the laughs coming. Although it's not the most sophisticated comedy in the world, Starbuck is a bit more layered and nuanced, especially when compared to Delivery Man, which take the same gags but makes them louder and busier. Although Chris Pratt earns a few big laughs, the Hollywood-ization of Starbuck's sense of humor is a comedic cacophony.
Don't let the trailers fool you. Underneath all of the wacky Vince Vaughn gags, Delivery Man has a sentimental core that would make Frank Capra rise from the grave and try to burn Hollywood the ground. The film gets so schmaltzy and disgustingly sweet in its final act that it fundamentally damages everything that came before it. But here's the big twist: Starbuck has the exact same problem. A comedy with heart is one thing, but both films have a heart that's oversized, unhealthy and trying waaay too hard.
The Grand Winner
Starbuck is far from a perfect movie, but it gets a great deal more right than Delivery Man, which is frequently tone deaf and hopelessly bland. Look at it this way: both films are nearly identical in every way, but one is streaming for free on Netflix and is significantly better and the other will cost you the price of a movie ticket while providing a lesser experience. So man up, deal with the French subtitles and save your money. Go watch Starbuck at home this weekend instead of wasting your cash on Delivery Man.
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