Unfinished Business

Posted on March 5, 2015 at 5:59 pm

Copyright 20th Century Fox 2015
Copyright 20th Century Fox 2015

“Unfinished Business” is a story about three renegade renegades from bureaucracy going up against The Man and the importance of the individual in an era of soul-grinding corporatism. But the movie itself is clearly the product of institutional over-management, as though it was put together by a committee and then circulated for sign-off through a dozen different divisions. The result is a weird and sadly sour mash-up of wild, raunchy comedy, underdog triumph, and treacly family story about how much daddies love their children. Plus random switches of location, tired jokes about glory holes in gay bars, and stunningly off-kilter “humor” about developmental challenges. And much assumed hilarity about someone’s funny name, which is not even that funny. Vince Vaughn looks tired throughout and not just because his character is exhausted. The original title, “Business Trip,” would have better described the storyline. The current title better describes the film.

Vaughn plays Daniel, who in a “Jerry Maguire” moment begins the film by quitting his job as a salesman for some faceless conglomerate that sells something. His boss, Chuck (Sienna Miller, very funny and underused) has told him he has to take a pay cut. So he walks out, and two men come along. One is old and bitter (Tom Wilkinson as Timothy). One is young and naive (Dave Franco as Mike). But they have grit and dreams and determination. A year later, they have just one last chance to keep their enterprise going. The deal has been approved. They just need to fly to Portland, Maine for the handshake. Yes, a handshake is all it takes to shake that money tree. We won’t waste time on the sloppiness in the portrayal of “business” in this film, except to note that it is consistent with the lack of energy throughout.

At first it seems there will be some connection between the bullying issues faced by Daniel’s children and his relationship with Chuck. Instead, we get to hear Timothy whine about his bad marriage and how much he wants to have sex, wheelbarrow style. Or another joke about Mike Pancake’s last name or his inability to master basic vocabulary (while somehow doing an excellent job putting complicated pricing figures together).

But before they can get to the handshake, they have to get through Chuck, who is there chatting up the client with jokes that are just smutty enough to make her look like a “cool girl,” and undercutting their prices to drive them out of business. This means they end up going to Germany for yet another meeting, so that lots of things can go wrong in ways that are supposed to be funny along the way. The car flips over. A crucial agreement cannot happen unless they track down a female colleague in a co-ed spa, who of course insists that Daniel remove his clothes to show his, uh, commitment or something. The guys end up at a gay bar, a youth hostel, an anti-G8 demonstration, and a very revealing art installation, as Daniel tries to re-do his numbers to undercut Chuck and keep up with some bullying problems his children are dealing with at home. At one point, he ends up walking (and then running) around in teal eyeshadow, and we perk up for a moment, thinking something that isn’t banal and formulaic is going to happen, but no such luck.  The storyline, like the comedy, is unfinished, too.

Parents should know that this movie includes constant very strong language, extended male and female nudity, very explicit sexual references and situations, drinking, drug use, bullying, and comic peril and violence.

Family discussion: Why did Daniel have trouble with the homework assignment? Should he have told his wife the truth? How did he help his children?

If you like this, try: “The Hangover” and “The Big Kahuna”

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