2015, R, 91 mins.
2015, R, 91 mins.
Vince Vaughn as Dan Trunkman / Dave Franco as Mike Pancake / James Marsden as Jim Spinch / Sienna Miller as Chuck Portnoy / Nick Frost as Bill Whilmsley / Tom Wilkinson as Timothy McWinters
Directed by Ken Scott / Written by Steve Conrad
To take a page out of the SWINGERS vernacular, Vince Vaughn has always been “money” to me. He has that incomparable level of motormouthed bravado and lightning quick razor sharp wits that can save just about any subpar movie scene from imploding in on itself.
some of my favorite comedies, but after watching UNFINISHED BUSINESS even
I’m left with the overwhelming sensation that he may need to try
something new. It’s not
that he isn’t reliably solid and dependably amusing in it (his deadpan
skills and astute improvisational gifts are on ample display here), but
rather that he’s playing essentially the same character again, that of a
loveable chatterbox loser, at a low point in his life, that’s
desperately trying to empower himself for the better.
There’s a repetitive sameness to many of Vaughn’s recent film
ventures, which certainly and unfortunately taints
Vaughn and his well-assembled supporting cast aren’t really the problem
with Ken Scott’s new comedy (he recently worked with Vaughn on DELIVERY
MAN). No, the problem with
UNFINISHED BUSINESS is purely on the screenplay front; writer Steven
Conrad (he penned some good films like THE WEATHER MAN) doesn’t
seem to have the faintest clue of what kind of story he’s trying to tell
here. UNFINISHED BUSINESS
uncomfortably straddles between being a lewd, crude, and vulgar workplace/Eurotrip
travel comedy while also trying to be a sobering commentary on family
woes, parental neglect and school bullying.
This creates a huge disconnect in the film; Scott and Conrad really
seem to want to fully embrace the inherent raunchiness of Vaughn trekking
through Europe to save his company on a vital business trip, but the
film’s subplots involving his beleaguered wife and overweight son
that’s become a target of schoolyard and cyber bullying feels like
it’s from a whole other movie altogether.
You can’t be a sweet and sentimental family dramedy and a
go-for-broke comedy of reckless, hard-R rated shenanigans and get away
least the cast is rather winning and likeable here.
Vaughn plays his umpteenth down-on-his-luck – but ambitious
minded - schlub Dan Trunkman, who has had it with his current employer
Chuck Portnoy (Sienna Miller) and decides – in a moment of Jerry
Maguire-esque gustiness – to quit and form his own sales firm.
He recruits two new workers…in the parking lot:
One is a hapless, middle-aged, and unhappily married Tim McWinters
(Tom Wilkinson, a wonderful bit of atypical casting here) and Mike (Dave
Franco), a young man that’s so cognitively challenged that he doesn’t
know the difference between a rectangle and a square.
Dan’s on-the-spot interview of the inanely shy and introverted
Mike involves one of the film’s more hilarious exchanges.
When asked if Mike has any sales experience he replies
“Footlocker,” to which Dan further asks, “Why did you quit?”
Mike’s response: “I don’t like feet.”
year goes by and Dan’s new company Apex Select is so cash poor and
struggling that they have their base of operations at Dunkin’ Donuts
(lame product placement, to be sure, but oddly funny all the same).
Dan sets his sights on a big game firm headed by Jim Spinch
(James Marsden) and his right hand man Bill Whilmsley (Nick Frost), but
soon realizes that his former boss in Chuck is also eyeing a contract with
the same people. Desperately
trying to outthink Chuck and take his company to the next level, Dan
decides to take his three-man team away from St. Louis to Portland and
then all the way to Germany in order to secure his company’s future
(granted, how an impoverished company like his can afford to travel all the way to
Berlin is never explained…but never mind).
Further problems soon rear up when the trio ends up overseas,
like the fact that there are no hotels available because of the G8 summit,
Oktoberfest, and a gay rights festival.
This is just the beginning of a series of predictably wacky
misadventures for Dan and his crew.
BUSINESS is certainly not a laugh-free affair despite its narrative
obviousness and predictable plot trajectory.
Vaughn may be playing yet another permutation of the same obligator
character he’s played for years in films, but he nevertheless always
brings his game face and seems poised for just about any ridiculous set
piece the film offers up. I
also like the casting of Wilkinson, who gives the film a bit of
melancholic and world-weary class that it otherwise lacks.
Franco brings childlike bashfulness to a whole other upper echelon
of awkward comic possibilities in the film playing his hopelessly naïve
and dumber-than-a-bag-of-hammers Mike.
The poor sap also has a last name that is identical to a very
popular breakfast food, which leaves him the butt of jokes during one
particularly awkward business meeting.
BUSINESS doesn’t lack charm and humor, but its script, as mentioned, is
a tonal misfire. There’s
that aforementioned side story involving Dan’s obese child and his
social woes that seems to derail the politically incorrect debauchery that
typifies Dan’s Berlin adventures. This
is not to belittle the everlasting problem of bullying, but the manner with
which this film uses it purely as a mechanical plot device is kind of
off-putting to say the least. There’s
nothing inherently wrong with trying to infuse some heart and soul into a
comedy, but there doesn’t appear to be a harmonious marriage between all
of UNFINISHED BUSINESS’ discordant story threads.
Here’s a film that, for example, has scenes involving Dan
accidentally stumbling into a washroom at a gay bar – replete with glory
holes with semi-erect penises sticking out – while other times having
would-be sentimental moments between father and son on Facechat dealing
with disturbing issues back on the home front.
The whole vibe of this film feels like it’s walking an
unflattering slippery rope.
There's one moment of pure comic ingenuity in UNFINISHED BUSINESS that could have been the subject of a whole film. When Dan finally tracks down the only hotel available in Berlin he soon discovers that it’s not a hotel, but rather a 24/7 art installation exhibit called AMERICAN BUSINESSMAN 42, with walls made entirely of windows so that art gallery patrons and onlookers can observe him like a zoo animal. I howled during these moments, but UNFINISHED BUSINESS wholeheartedly lacks these instances of pure inspiration and instead tries to pathetically coast by on its shapeless and unfocused plotting that tries to blend parental crisis with outrageously bawdy road trip tomfoolery. Vaughn, to be fair, gives it his all playing another foul-mouthed and browbeaten – but good-natured – misfit with a heart of proverbial gold, but it’s time for him to move on.
How about a drama, good sir? Now that would be “money."