Unfinished Business is Unfunny Business
Directed by: Ken Scott
Written by: Steven Conrad
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Tom Wilkinson, Dave Franco
Running time: 91 minutes
Rated R for some strong risqué sexual content/graphic nudity, and for language and drug use
Unfinished Business, which is undeniably supposed to be a comedy, received a very liberal six chuckles and one laugh from me. The vast majority of this film was just awkward poorly executed gags packaged with a disjointed plot. What this amounts to is an unfunny comedy full of crude humor that is not shocking or outrageous, resulting in a movie that feels like amateur sketch comedy. Director Ken Scott, who appears to be new to directing comedy, seemed to take hands off approach resulting in inconstant performances from actors, Vince Vaugh, Tom Wilkinson, and Dave Franco. It also resulted in an inconsistent tone, as the film jumped between insipidly juvenile and clever intelligent comedy. Blame for this should also go to screenwriter Steven Conrad, who is also apparently new to comedy, seemed uncomfortable constructing jokes that actually progress the story, rather than being completely superfluous. Speaking of superfluous material, this film had an afterschool special type of moral shoehorned into the film. The biggest disconnect is the type of comedy that they were attempting to make. Goofy comedies rarely make decent vessels for a feel-good morality tale, no matter how good that part of the movie may be. Maybe I am being overly harsh on Conrad. Maybe Fox, to drum up the comedy, farmed out his script; in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised. It felt like a room full of people, rather than one screenwriter with serval good films under his belt wrote this script. Because I am nice Steven Conrad gets the benefit of doubt from me, but I will be skeptical next time I see a comedy with his name.
Dan Trunkman (Vince Vaughn) just quit his job to start his own business and he brought reluctant retiree Timothy McWinters (Tom Wilkinson) and enthusiastic interviewee Mike Pancake (Dave Franco) with him. After a year of struggling Dan is finally closing in on a make or break deal with Jim Spinch (James Marsden) and Bill Whilmsley (Nick Frost), but they unexpectedly have to compete with Dan’s former boss Chuck Portnoy (Sienna Miller). This forces Dan and his team to chase the elusive handshake to Berlin during the Berlin Marathon, the G8 summit, Oktoberfest, and the world’s largest gay fetish festival. To top it off Dan is struggling to be there for his children at a time when they need him the most, and the business deal is starting to fall apart.
If you were to take that synopsis, it actually has the potential to be a good story, and even a genuinely funny comedy. Unfortunately, it was neither of those. The story was tenuously stitched together it may have been improvised on set. What this does for the movie, if you hadn’t guessed, is leave us with a big basket of poorly motivated actions, and unsupported decisions. It is that type of thing that leads audiences to shout at the screen, I half expected someone to yell, “You know that kid is an idiot why did you let him rent the car?” This brings me to the last point I care to make about this film. The character of Mike Pancake, he started out as a simpleton. He was a bumbling idiot, until they revealed that he mentally disabled. Somehow, this just felt wrong, on so many levels, but mostly because it felt like his disability was now the butt of the joke, rather than his actions. Maybe I’m splitting comedic hairs here, but I’ll be damned if it didn’t take the wind out of the comedy built around that character.
Unfinished Business played like an unfinished script completed by a business school fraternity amateur comedy improve group, and directed by a dude-bro that called “good enough” at the end of every scene. This was one of the longest 90-minute films I have ever seen.