After seeing the wretched, wandering mess that is “Unfinished Business,” I’m wondering if some studio executive scribbled those words on the front page of the script as a commentary instead of a suggested title.
Nearly everything about this movie feels like a task half-completed.
Is it a hard-R road trip comedy that makes no apologies for politically incorrect humor — or a sweet family film with a message about tolerance and acceptance?
It’s both, I suppose. And neither element is particularly convincing or particularly funny.
This is the kind of movie where the lone female executive is named “Chuck” and proves she belongs with the boys by telling them one of their group, um, did something to her the night before. Except for the main character’s wife, nearly every other woman in the movie is an almost instant sexual plaything.
Ah, but men are exploited as well. There’s a scene in a gay nightclub in which the men are literally reduced to their sexual organs. Sure, it’s played for humor; it’s just not that funny.
Vince Vaughn, continuing his decade-long streak of mediocre comedies (“Fred Claus,” “Four Christmases,” “Couples Retreat,” “The Dilemma,” “The Watch,” “The Internship,” should I stop now?) plays another variation on his fast-talking, slightly oafish but goodhearted regular guy. He’s Dan Trunkman, a small businessman from St. Louis with an adoring, supportive wife (June Diane Raphael) and two kids who are having trouble at school. Little Bess (Ella Anderson) is something of a bully, while her older brother Paul (Britton Sear) is an obese kid who’s on the other end of taunts from his entire class, both at school and on the Internet.
Dan’s solution: He’s going to find the money to send his kid to private school, because as we all know, private schools are famously nurturing environments for heavy-set social outcast transfer students from middle-class families.
The bulk of “Unfinished Business” takes place in Berlin, where Dan competes with the aforementioned Chuck (Sienna Miller, rockin’ the brash American accent) for an all-important deal with a giant corporation. (By the way, Dan’s in the swarf game. Swarf is a term for the small particles of metal created in the manufacturing of something huge, like the Golden Gate Bridge. Why this movie is about people in the swarf world is beyond me.)
Dan has exactly two employees. There’s Tom Wilkinson’s Tim, who is 67, trapped in a loveless marriage and eager to experience relations with a woman to whom he’s actually attracted. (In one of the film’s many blatant product placement moments, Tim points out a vending machine for a particular soft drink and says his wife looks exactly like the machine.)
Employee No. 2 is Dave Franco’s Mike Pancake. Much is made of Mike’s last name being pancake. You know, like the breakfast food! Bahahahahaha.
Franco’s an unusual little guy who plays Mike as borderline mentally challenged. He doesn’t understand the difference between a rectangle and a square; he doesn’t understand most words with more than two syllables; and he quit his last job at Foot Locker because he didn’t like feet. At first there’s something kind of sweet and endearing about Mike, but he starts to wear thin about halfway through the movie.
There’s a lot of nudity, male and female, and a lot of drinking and drug consumption, as Dan and team spend at least as much time partying in Berlin as they do in the pursuit of the big deal. We get the obligatory scene where they all get wasted and then dance in slow motion while EDM blasts on the soundtrack. We get the obligatory scene where they all wake up in their clothes from the night before. It’s almost as if they all have a big “Hangover.” Ahem.
Dan’s attempts to bond with his kids via Skype feel mawkish, as does the device of having him narrate the story in the form of an essay he’s supposed to be writing for his daughter’s school project. Scenes set against the Berlin Marathon, a G-8 Summit and a gay bondage and fetish festival come across as wasted opportunities, or inexplicable forays into bizarre territory for no reason.
And ugh, the score. It’s one of those bouncy, cartoonish scores that sound like it was influenced by hokey sitcoms of the early 1960s.