What would you do if you suddenly found out that you were the father of 533 children?
Well, that’s the premise of the new movie “Delivery Man.” I was going to say “the unbelievable premise”—but that wouldn’t be true. In an age of donor-created children, what happens in this particular movie could, possibly, happen in real life. And that raises serious questions about the nature of children, families, and fatherhood—questions that the filmmakers chose to ignore in this supposedly “feel good” comedy.
Vince Vaughn plays David, a lovable loser who, many years ago, made hundreds of sperm donations to a fertility clinic. (We’re told he did this to fund a dream trip to Italy for his parents, which of course pushes the message that sperm donation is a good deed.) But David is shocked when a lawyer shows up and informs him that, owing to a glitch at the clinic, his sperm was used to create 533 kids. And that 142 of these kids are now suing to find out who their father is.
Well, David has to counter sue because of money problems, so he’s not supposed to reveal himself. However, overcome with curiosity, he finds out who some of his children are and starts playing “guardian angel” in their lives.
And in doing so, he finds out what it’s like to be there for his kids when they need him. He saves one daughter from dying of a drug overdose, and he learns to care for one son suffering with cerebral palsy, who can’t speak or walk and lives in a nursing home.
The movie is full of heartwarming moments like these, which speak to the importance of a father in his children’s lives. To that extent, the movie has something to offer.
But what we don’t get to see is what these kids went through before their father was there for them. Some of the kids—now young adults—do get a chance to talk about what it’s like to grow up without knowing their father, about how they feel that they’re missing a part of their identity.
But it’s only a very brief chance. The movie never really delves into what they’ve suffered. We don’t hear things like this result from a survey of real-life donor-created offspring, once quoted by Chuck Colson on this program: “On average,” he said, “young adults conceived through sperm donation are hurting more, are more confused, and feel more isolated from their families. They fare worse than their peers raised by biological parents on important outcomes like depression, delinquency and substance abuse.”
Of course there’s only so much the filmmakers could do with the subject. But they could have done a little less to make it a feel-good fairytale, and done more to remind us of the troubling implications of creating families via sperm donation.
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One of the most realistic moments occurs after one son confronts David. While talking to him, David slips up and refers to his “real family,” meaning his girlfriend and their unborn child. The devastation and anger on his son’s face are a grim reminder that “real families” aren’t just the ones we want in our lives, and that children aren’t any less “real” if their father signs an anonymity agreement at a clinic.
“Delivery Man” is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual content, some drug material, brief violence, and language. So I can’t recommend the movie. But if you do see it with friends or family, be ready to talk about the meaning of family and the importance of fatherhood.