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‘Unfinished Business’ is an Unfunny Vocation

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 2.5/5.0
Rating: 2.5/5.0

CHICAGO – Have you ever seen a film where they throw everything against a wall to see what sticks? The appropriately titled “Unfinished Business” is a throwing machine, taking the flimsy premise of a business trip and using it as an excuse for a splattering of jokes that mostly don’t work.

Vince Vaughn takes his hipster/flummoxed movie persona and becomes a Daddy figure, with the wifey at home, and two rug rats for use as punchlines. Yep, Vincent has gone domestic. Joining him is the requisite dopey assistant and old horny guy, which is reliable as a basis for jokes-that-don’t-score. This is a by the book mainstream comedy, with no originality and a foregone conclusion. When Vince Vaughn is portraying an underdog sales representative – yes, I said sales rep – and it doesn’t look like he’ll close the big deal, what do think will happen? It doesn’t take Alec Baldwin to tell us “coffee is for closers.”

Vaughn is Dan Trunkman, who at the beginning of the film is walking out of his sales job at a big company, because they cut his salary. As he leaves, he promises his rival named Chuck (it’s a woman, played by Sienna Miller) that he will start his own company. After recruiting the near-retiree Timothy (Tom Wilkinson) and dim bulb Mike (Dave Franco), he opens Apex Select.

Vince Vaughn, Tom Wilkinson, Dave Franco
Dan (Vince Vaughn), Timothy (Tom Wilkinson) and Mike (Dave Franco) in ‘Unfinished Business’
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

Fast forward to one year later. The company is barely working at Dunkin Donuts (product placement alert!), but is on the cusp of a huge deal. The transaction is basically suppose to come down to a handshake, but the evil capitalist Jim (James Marsden) and his toadie Bill (Nick Frost) has brought in Chuck to counter the offer, and the Apex team must scramble from Maine to Germany to chase down their deal.

The premise is so vague and convoluted, that it might have been another movie – like a teenage road trip – and retrofitted into the Vince Vaughn universe. The film is jonesing for the story to have a feel good scenario – Vince’s kids included an awkwardly overweight teen son and his behaviorally challenged moppet sister – with the concluded deal destined to make all lives better. But the jokes around that Leave-it-to-Vincey weirdness has to do with a horny old man, Dave Franco doing his brother James “I’m not all there” schtick and a European location that promises leather fetish gags and human hamster balls. It’s desperation-a-go-go for flop sweat jokes.

The comedy is built upon nothing. Is Tom Wilkinson an older worker? Then have him hire a fantasy call girl and smoke lots of pot. Will they establish Dave Franco as practically mentally disabled? Well, just paint him also as a pick-up artist (for sex jokes). Comedies don’t need consistency for laughs, but for gawd sakes drop the Vince-as-wondrous-father bit and “the deal” as a centerpiece. It tends to derail the jokes and creates no authenticity for generating laughs.

This is “R” rated, so the film gets some credit for applying some raunch. The reason for bringing the business gang to Berlin (is Vince taking a page from Adam Sandler, who maneuvers his film settings to take a vacation?) is to throw in a leather fetish “glory hole” bit. Yep, this is the type of rib tickler that the film shoehorns as comedy. At least British comedian Nick Frost gets to be the wanker.

Vince Vaughn
Stretching the Expense Account in ‘Unfinished Business’
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

The character of Chuck, portrayed by Sienna Miller, was a brazen part of the narrative. She is Vince’s rival for the thinnest of reasons, and their exchanges would cause more lawsuits than realistic dialogue, but by some twist of logic Ms. Miller manages to make something of the role. Of late, she plays the characters that are offered to actresses of her career status, from the “American Sniper” wife to the ball busting sales competitor of “Unfinished Business,” but she gives these roles much more than how they’re written. That’s talent, my friends.

What is next for Vince Vaughn? Maybe a remake of TV’s “Family Affair,” where he’ll be the genial uncle to two adopted kiddos. Of course there would be the butler “Mr. French,” but his name will also advertise his service, with all the tension that implies. Now, that’s funny.

”Unfinished Business” opens everywhere on March 6th. Featuring Vince Vaughn, Dave Franco, Tom Wilkinson, Sienna Miller, James Marsden and Nick Frost. Written by Steve Conrad. Directed by Ken Scott. Rated “R”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Writer, Editorial Coordinator

© 2015 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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