A film review by Craig J. Koban March 13, 2015


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.  

Vaughn has been in 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 UNFINISHED BUSINESS. 

Granted, 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 with it. 



At 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.” 

A 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. 

UNFINISHED 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.  

UNFINISHED 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."

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