Mark Reviews Movies

Unfinished Business (2015)


1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Ken Scott

Cast: Vince Vaughn, Tom Wilkinson, Dave Franco, Sienna Miller, June Diane Raphael, Britton Sear, Ella Anderson, Nick Frost, James Marsden

MPAA Rating: R (for some strong risqué sexual content/graphic nudity, and for language and drug use)

Running Time: 1:31

Release Date: 3/6/15

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Review by Mark Dujsik | March 5, 2015

We often see movies set in foreign locales and think that—no matter the quality of the movie itself—at least the cast is appearing to have fun. The cast members of Unfinished Business look as if fun is the last thing on any of their minds. They appear visibly bored by the material. Perhaps we can be kinder and chalk it up to a simple matter of jet lag on account of some haphazardly assembled shooting schedule.

Whatever the case may be, it's obvious that no one's heart is in the game. They're simply going through the motions of a screenplay by Steve Conrad that is itself doing the same thing. A trio of businessmen arrive in Germany and have to cajole a deal from some potential clients who appear to have changed their plans. We know that these stressed-out characters are going to let loose. We know that misadventures are in store. We know they're going to be fish out of water in a foreign land. We know it, and boy, does the cast know it, too.

Watching the movie is akin to watching the home movies of a group of friends on vacation, if each and every one of those friends had better, more promising plans that they had to skip on account of this damn trip that came up at the last minute. None of them wants to disappoint his buddies, so none of them bothers to tell the others that he's miserable and regretting every moment that he's here.

One can see it on the actors' faces: This was a mistake. Maybe they're not completely sure why. We have to suspect that at least one of these actors—the one whose appearance in the movie makes the least sense—is painfully cognizant of each and every reason. Nonetheless, it's there, and at times, it's uncomfortable to witness.

The actor whose doesn't seem to belong is Tom Wilkinson, who plays Tim, an unhappily married man who joined this startup company after he was let go from his previous job because of his age. What's depressing is that, from his long and rather substantial career, we know Wilkinson is a consummate professional—a dedicated performer whose very presence lends an air of respectability to whatever material in which he's involved. Here, his character must do some kind of psychedelic drug during a half-hearted party montage and describe a sexual position known as the "wheelbarrow." Wilkinson is theoretically playing deadpan to his more verbose and sillier co-stars, but he just appears tired on more levels than it would be polite to detail.

We don't blame him in the slightest. At first, it's amusing to hear Wilkinson recite lines about Tim's vending machine-shaped wife and pining for some sexual experience with a woman who doesn't make his life miserable. The same can be said of Dave Franco's sexually and professionally virginal Mike Pancake, who believes a vending machine is square-shaped. He's not too bright, that Mike Pancake, who says his full name even after his co-workers repeatedly warn him that it shifts the tone of meetings from business to breakfast.

Again, the character is funny at first, but then he becomes decidedly less funny. It's not because of repetition but due to the fact that it's soon revealed Mike has a developmental disability. This, by the way, is a movie that forces an anti-bullying message into the fray for no discernible reason, but hey, doesn't Mike's intellectual disability result in him doing and saying really funny things?

The misplaced messaging comes as a result of the final character, Vince Vaughn's Dan, the head of the startup company that specializes in selling refuse scraps of metal. He and his company have one last chance to avoid bankruptcy by taking this trip to Germany to close a big deal. Both of his children have problems with bullying: his elder son (Britton Sear) because of his weight and his younger daughter (Ella Anderson) because she fights a classmate who made fun of her brother. All of it, of course, is just a reason for his trip to be doubly terrible—that he could lose the business and that he can't help his family members through their problems.

The trio gets into complications. Dan and Tim's former boss (Sienna Miller) arrives to close her own deal. Nick Frost plays the man they thought had final say, and that results in Dan and Mike maneuvering around a series of penises at a "gay fetish festival" (Mike thinks it's polite to shake the exposed appendage). Some of Unfinished Business is funny at first—but only at first. After that, it's a quick descent into repetitive, predictable, and poorly considered gags.

Copyright © 2015 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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