Unfinished Business (2015)
Editor’s Notes: Unfinished Business opens in wide release today, March 6th.
It’s impossible to dislike Vince Vaughn. Even when the material he’s been given is mundanely lifeless and painfully beneath him, he gives it his all. He’s just fun to watch. Even in cinematic disasters like The Dilemma or The Internship, Vaughn projects this zany, fast-talking, profane personality that is immediately hilarious and believable. It’s the lack of his trademark comedic energy that makes his latest outing, Unfinished Business, feel like such a missed opportunity.
It’s no coincidence that Franco is the best part of the film and responsible for the films biggest and only instances of laughter.
Vaughn plays Dan Trunkman, dedicated business man and loving husband and father who is forced to take a pay cut by his boss. In the spirit of Jerry Maguire, a film whose energy this one will match only in the speed in which people will flee to the exit once it ends, Dan quits his job to start his own company with an open invitation for anyone who wants to escape the tight clutches of their iron-fisted boss Chuck (Sienna Miller) to join him on his new endeavor. Two people take his offer: Tim McWinters (Tom Wilkinson), an elderly man fired because of Chuck’s mandatory age limit, and Mike Pancake (Dave Franco), a soft-spoken dunce who brought a box of stuff to his interview to project confidence. They start slow, but eventually the three get a shot at becoming the best in their business.
Of the film’s three leads, only Franco seems to be the one invested in the film. It’s no coincidence that Franco is the best part of the film and responsible for the films biggest and only instances of laughter. Tom Wilkinson just looks confused as to why he is even in a film so devoid of entertainment. Vaughn is on some strange form of autopilot in this movie,turning in such a detached performance that he is instantly an early front-runner for best performance of the year given while sleepwalking. Much of this is due to the fact that the script penned by Steve Conrad is so confoundingly inconsistent in tone and too aseptically conservative with its comedy. Advertising for the film focuses on the fact that is bursting at the seams with adult content, but the reality is this only makes up for three scenes in this 100-minute film that could easily be mistaken for a documentary on dead air.
For a film centered around a modern day business man featuring a scene at the G8 Summit, Unfinished Business has less than nothing to say about the economy and the people who run it.
In one of the movie’s many languorous decisions, it is never made clear exactly what the ins and outs of the business are. We get a throwaway line about the fact that they work with swaf, which is metal, wood, or plastic shavings leftover after construction. Beyond that we are forced to endure a far too many scenes of generic business conversations and number jargon, which wouldn’t be an much of an issue if it were clear that Conrad really wanted us to care and root for these characters. For a film centered around a modern day business man featuring a scene at the G8 Summit, Unfinished Business has less than nothing to say about the economy and the people who run it. Instead, the film subjects us to at least 300 scenes of Dan FaceTimng his family. Like ya do.
Ultimately, this is a movie with a script that feels like two different movies. Steve Conrad’s previous writing credits responsible for films like The Pursuit of Happyness and The Weather Man, and Unfinished Business fits perfectly in with those films. It’s almost like someone read the script and decided it would be better with R-rated humor. The bitch of the thing is that even the humor feels tired and lifeless. Ken Scott, who worked with Vaughn on last year’s Delivery Man, feels more of an economincal director than a comedic one, a director that sticks to the script and doesn’t really try and give the actors their moment to shine. For some directors that works wonders, but in this case it just highlights how weak the script is.
To the film’s credit, there are a couple of things in the film that work very well. As I mentioned earlier, Dave Franco is a national treasure. There is a scenario involving Vince Vaughn’s hotel accommodations that though strange becomes an enjoyable running joke. Nick Frost also shows up in a thankless role to briefly breathe life into the film. Finally, there is a scene so sophomoric in its nature that is executed so perfectly I was surprised how much and how hard I was laughing. Then again I was probably just happy to laugh.
Vince Vaughn has never looked more tired and devoid of comedic energy. Dave Franco is responsible for all the films laughs, of which there are only a handful. Ultimately, Unfinished Business is a languorous and stale affair.