Risque business? Unfunny business?
Long gone are the days when Vince Vaughn used to make energetic and enjoyable comedies. But recently the aggressive motor mouthed comic actor has recently made a number of largely unfunny, mediocre and embarrassingly dull comedies of late, with films like The Dilemma, Fred Claus, The Watch and Delivery Man to his credit. But with Unfinished Business he seems to have scraped the bottom of the comedic barrel.
Vaughn plays Dan Trunkman, a corporate marketing executive for a mineral sales company who quits his job after a run in with his boss. Trunkman is trying to deal with a number of family issues – his overweight and lonely son is being bullied at school – but he seems too occupied at work to effectively resolve these problems.
He decides to set up his own business, named Apex Select, in competition. He takes along with him the veteran Timothy (Tom Wilkinson), a rather bitter and sad old man long past mandatory retirement and trapped in an unhappy marriage, and the naive young intern Mike Pancake, whose unfortunate surname seems to have the capacity to reduce hard headed business men to fits of uncontrollable giggling. Unfortunately it didn’t have the same effect on the audience at the preview I attended, where it was greeted with stony silence. As was much of the painfully unfunny film.
A year later, Trunkman seems set to strike a deal that will see the company acquired by a major international firm. He jets off to Berlin for a crucial negotiation, with Tim and Mike in tow. But as things stall, the three end up spending a night of debauchery in Berlin’s red light district, and there are some Hangover style hijinks. Due to a lack of available hotel rooms due to several events occurring in Berlin at the time, Trunkman is forced to spend time as a living exhibit in a boutique hotel room/art installation, where he is designated American businessman 42, and tourists can watch him, a bizarre idea that really adds little to the film.
Franco often plays sexually ambiguous characters, but his naive, virginal, sweet natured and possibly intellectually disabled young intern who mangles the English language is the most interesting character here, and he undergoes the most obvious character arc in the film. However there needed to be a bit more character development here to give him a bit more depth and substance. Veteran Wilkinson is usually a fine actor who brings gravitas and dignity to his roles, but here he seems embarrassed to be here, especially with the casually profanity laden dialogue he is forced to uter. But this film probably paid for another swimming pool.
Vaughn is a seemingly lazy actor whose recent performances have seemed increasingly tired and disinterested. He coasts along on autopilot here, playing yet another variation of the type of arrogant, blustering but well-meaning character he often plays.
Nick Frost has a rather embarrassing role here as an overweight gay with a leather fetish who spends a lot of time literally hanging out in glory holes in gay bars. James Marsden is wasted in a fairly thankless role here and gives his cocky, smarmy smile a big workout. And Sienna Miller plays a thankless role as Chuck, Vaughn’s former tough as nails boss turned business rival.
This is a laboured and unfunny comedy that caters for the lowest common denominator. There is plenty of raunchy humour and homophobic humour here especially in a cringeworthy scene set in the toilets of a gay bar. The flaccid script comes from Steven Conrad (The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty), who seems to specialise in stories of underdog businessmen looking for something to give meaning to their empty lives. The film does offer up a scathing critique of corporate America and its values, as well as looking at more emotionally charged issues such as family values and bullying. But many of these themes remain underdeveloped as Conrad and co strive for cheap laughs with lots of puerile scatological humour.
The film has been directed in laboured and leaden fashion by Canadian Ken Scott, who previously directed Vaughn in the equally unfunny Delivery Man. However the film is sadly bereft of genuine laughs, and much of the humour is cringeworthy and tasteless. Despite a running time of just 91 minutes the pace seems to drag and Unfinished Business well and truly outstays its welcome.
Director: Ken Scott
Cast: Vince Vaughn, Dave Franco, Sienna Miller, Tom Wilkinson and James Marsden
DVD and on-demand release: 12 August 2015
Rated: MA 15+
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television