Vince Vaughn needs to stop with the Vince Vaughn movies.
Partway into Unfinished Business, three Americans go to Berlin. It’s a busy week in the German capital, with hotel rooms hard to come by. The youngest of the trio, Mike Pancake (Dave Franco), books into the only place he and his 67-year-old colleague, Timothy Winters (Tom Wilkinson), can afford: a youth hostel. Their boss, Dan Trunkman (Vince Vaughn), unknowingly opts for a “habitable work of art”, where he’s on display in a museum.
The level of comedy shown here, of the “old folks doing young things”, “look how mismatched everyone is” and “isn’t this a ridiculous idea” variety, are actually some of the film’s best work. That’s not a compliment. But when much of the movie makes fun of unusual names, of a man wearing women’s clothing, and of the difficulties someone identified as challenged has in understanding certain words, well, the bar hasn’t been set very high.
Also on the hit-list of Unfinished Business’ allegedly humorous subjects: gawking at naked women, the stereotype of women acting like men to make it in business, women compared to vending machines, gay nightclub culture and steam rooms. Contrast that with the film’s supposedly softer side, attempting to address bullying, fitting in, standing up for yourself and chasing what you believe in. That the combination of crassness and schmaltz is as muddled and messy as it is ill fitting is hardly surprising.
The plot stems from a Jerry Maguire moment, as family man Dan quits his job selling metal shavings to go out on his own, and Mike and Timothy follow. A year later, they’re up for a lucrative contract – but despite being told the gig is theirs by their contact (Nick Frost), they’re pitted against Chuck (Sienna Miller), their previous employer. Though both teams travel to Berlin, it seems that smarmy exec Jim (James Marsden) has already made up his mind. Dan is forced to take drastic action to succeed, and to take care of everyone counting on him.
Why Hollywood is convinced that audiences want to see Vaughn making the same kind of movies – especially these kind of movies – remains a mystery. He’s a likeable enough presence, but continually playing a big-hearted underachiever trying to get his life back on track via fratboy-like antics doesn’t do anyone any favours. Vaughn and his director Ken Scott obviously disagree, re-teaming after the thematically similar Delivery Man. If you’ve seen that, or The Internship, then you know what you’re in for here.
The scattershot approach shown in the script doesn’t help matters, rushing from one scene to the next as fast as it can, even though the film always feels like it is dragging. Nor does the insistence that more is more: more crude gags, more cliches, more over-the-top exploits and more drama. And then there’s poor Franco and Wilkinson, saddled with one-note characters, but trying hard. At least someone is. Otherwise, Unfinished Business is an overstuffed, underdone mess that lives up to its name – and a film easily bested by its stock image marketing campaign.
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