“Unfinished Business” is a good title for a movie that feels fragmentary. It has a beginning, middle and end, so it technically qualifies as a story, but its reliance on mawkish sentimentality and non-sequiturs to forward the plot and an overload of narration to tie the loose ends together leave it feeling unfinished, unsatisfying and worst of all, unfunny.
Vince Vaughn plays Dan Trunkman a consultant who impulsively left a high powered job rather than take a pay cut. Now in business for himself—“I only have two employees,” he says, “one’s too old and one’s too young.”—he’s on the cusp of the biggest contract of his career. The oddball trio—Trunkman, Timothy McWinters (Tom Wilkenson) and the unlikely named Mike Pancake (Dave Franco)—travel to Portland, Maine in what should be a routine trip to close the deal.
But because this is a Vince Vaughn screwball comedy there is nothing routine about the trip.
Upon arrival he finds himself in a Davey and Goliath situation as his former boss, Chuck Portnoy (Sienna Miller), is pulling out all the stops to snag the business for the multinational company Dynamic Progressive Systems. Out gunned and on the verge of bankruptcy, Trunkman pulls out all the stops by flying to Berlin to meet with the top brass and show them a good time in hopes of winning their goodwill and the business. Instead they end up in a tiresome tour of Germany’s fetish bars, rave scene and unisex saunas.
“Unfinished Business” in its current unfinished-feeling state will make you wonder what could have happened if someone like Judd Apatow had been allowed to have a crack at the same material. Apatow is a master at finding the balance between heartfelt social commentary and socially inappropriate fratboy jokes. It’s the tone director Ken Scott, in his sophomore effort with Vaughn after last year’s charming-but-slight “Delivery Man,” seems to be going for but falls short on. Way short.
The gags mostly involve poking fun at Pancake’s reduced intellect, gay panic and tone-deaf sex jokes. It is occasionally amusing to see the usually oh-so-serious actor Tom Wilkinson let it rip as a randy old man and Nick Frost make the best of a bad situation, but for the most part the laughs feel like leftovers from a rejected “Hangover” script.
As a look at modern life it hits on some hot button topics, like bullying and providing for a family in a world where full time employment can be elusive, but even the serious stuff, meant to give the movie some heart, veers to the saccharine side and is about as insightful as a philosophical debate on twitter.
Ultimately the failure of “Unfinished Business” falls on Vaughn’s desk. He’s the boss at the center of the story but not even his natural charisma can salvage this very bad day at the office.