Directed by: Ken Scott
Premise: A salesman (Vince Vaughn) leaves an established company to start his own business with two other men (Tom Wilkinson and Dave Franco). After a year their business venture faces bankruptcy unless they can close a deal, leading to a weekend of misadventures.
What Works: The one positive thing to be said about Unfinished Business are the scenes between Vince Vaughn’s character and his children played by Ella Anderson and Britton Sear. The son is an overweight high school student who is ridiculed by his classmates and the daughter gets in trouble with school officials for beating up one of the bullies. Vaughn’s character encounters all of this while out on the road and the way he has to try to be a father via FaceTime has some real moments. Unfortunately those moments don’t come often enough.
What Doesn’t: Unfinished Business is yet another reiteration of the Vince Vaughn formula as seen in movies like Swingers, Dodgeball, Old School, Wedding Crashers, and The Internship. In these films Vaughn plays a relatable leader who gathers a ragtag group of outsiders and assembles them into a winning team that takes on an elite, upper class adversary. As with most things, the Vaughn formula has been subject to the law of diminishing returns and Unfinished Business is barely a shadow of the actor’s previous work. Many of the film’s problems are rooted in its story. There is nothing concrete at stake and Vaughn’s adversary, played by Sienna Miller, comes across less like a conniving villain and more like someone who has succeeded because she has her act together. It may be that Vaughn has outgrown this part; what was fresh and exciting and delightfully naughty ten years ago in Wedding Crashers has become rote and the movie gives the impression that most everyone is going through the motions. Unfinished Business is also devoid of any inspiration. This is most apparent in the other telltale characteristics of the Vince Vaughn formula: awkward sexual humor and montages of drunken behavior. This is where the movie goes from being bad to being ugly. For one, watching characters in a movie get drunk is not, and has never been, very interesting for sober viewers. What is potentially funny are the crazy shenanigans that drunk characters get into but nothing in Unfinished Business is all that outrageous. In fact, nothing about this movie is funny at all. There are a few guffaws in the picture but these moments seem better than they actually are because everything between those gags is so unfunny. The filmmakers’ idea of daring comedy is putting Tom Wilkinson’s character in a room while topless college-age women engage in a pillow fight. The scene isn’t sexy nor is it transgressive. It is all just boring. A comedy without laughs is bad enough but the filmmakers of Unfinished Business manage to make it worse. Dave Franco’s character is introduced as a meek and unintelligent young man and Franco is actually quite good at that. But about halfway through the picture it’s revealed that Franco’s character isn’t just a comically dim bulb; he is a developmentally disabled adult who lives in a group home with others of his condition. At that point the movie goes from inviting us to laugh at a Three Stooges-like fool and holding up a disabled person for ridicule. Unfinished Business never recovers from that reveal although its makers try with the final element of the Vince Vaughn formula: cheap sentimentality. After an hour of unfunny drunken gags and jokes at the expense of a disabled character, the filmmakers try to pull at our heartstrings as Vaughn’s character realizes—for no apparent reason—that family is important. This is a calculated attempt by the filmmakers to send us off on a happy note but it’s transparently fraudulent.
Bottom Line: Unfinished Business is a lousy film and it represents the collapse of the Vince Vaughn formula. Vaughn is a good actor but his routine has been ground down into nothing and it’s time for him to move on.
Episode: #533 (March 15, 2015)