Big Screen Streaming: Unfinished Business
-Film Reviewed by Roger Market–
Unfinished Business is the latest Hollywood vehicle for middlebrow comedy star Vince Vaughn. In the opening scene, Vaughn’s Dan Trunkman is tired of being underappreciated at work, so he leaves to start his own company, Apex Select. One year later, his only employees are Timothy McWinters—a sex-starved sexagenarian who was forced to retire from Dan’s former company—and a mentally impaired twentysomething virgin with the unfortunate name of Mike Pancake. The goals of both supporting characters are to make some money and have some sex, but Dan, well, he wants to prove that he’s worth something. Dan’s quest, which ties into a subplot revolving around his wife and children, is the movie’s saving grace.
A year after going into business together, Dan, Timothy, and Mike are en route to Portland to close the first big deal for Apex Select. Dan’s vindication is within his grasp. Upon arriving, however, the team discovers that they’ve been sidelined by the competition, Dan’s former boss, Chuck Portnoy. Don’t let the name fool you. Chuck’s a woman. Lacking self-respect, she tries to unnerve Dan with a graphic joke that implies she’s sleeping with the (married) client. Chuck has this deal in the bag, or so she thinks. In the same scene, she makes fun of Dan’s running clothes, which actually belong to his wife and were mistakenly packed by his daughter.
When the presentation in Portland doesn’t go in favor of the Apex Select team, Dan and company decide to go to Berlin to pitch to the higher-ups, once more facing off against Chuck. This is where all hell breaks loose. Apex becomes embroiled in a series of ridiculous situations, including a search for lodging at a time when, due to events taking place that week, there’s not one room available in all of Berlin. Then come the obligatory party scenes. At this point, the sex jokes become increasingly more rampant and overt, often centered on the young, immature Mike. For example, when Apex needs insider advice, the team follows a lead to the bathroom of a German gay bar, where Mike trips and falls face first against a manned glory hole. “The penis touched my face,” he says. This is one of many such instances.
Up to now, there’s not much to say about the acting. For what it is, Unfinished Business has a capable cast led by Vaughn, who ranges from genuinely funny to almost touching. Dave Franco plays Mike, Tom Wilkinson is Timothy, Sienna Miller portrays the indomitable Chuck, and James Marsden brings the client, Jim Spinch, to life. While the actors do justice to the genre, the characters themselves mostly serve as plot devices to fill out a story that would have been better served as a half-hour short revolving around Dan.
There is some good news. The film has a modicum of depth in the form of Dan’s interactions with his wife and his children, one of whom, Dan’s son, is being bullied online. That one of his own is being deemed a loser is clearly a personal affront to Dan. While he tries to handle his business in Portland and Berlin, he makes frequent Facetime calls to his wife and children, trying but usually failing to resolve the family’s issues from afar. When he’s at a loss, he simply freezes and lets them think the technology is broken, giving him more time to think. These calls are the tender moments that one might expect of a comedy. Dan’s Facetime failures ultimately lead him to a revelation: “I’m not going to freeze today,” he says. This line takes Unfinished Business to the climactic moment, when Dan puts his last plan into action, hoping to return home a winner and to be with his family.
Regretfully, the heart of the movie is overshadowed by tiresome sexual humor, prompting an otherwise unnecessary R rating. To its credit, Unfinished Business does touch on the issue of American prudishness vs. German openness, and perhaps this theme justifies the onslaught of tasteless jokes. There comes a point, however, where viewers will say, “Enough is enough.”
Unfinished Business more or less lives up to its comedy genre, but it’s a crude, tough sell overall. In fact, this reviewer can confirm that Baltimore’s Landmark Theater sold exactly one ticket for last Sunday’s mid-day showing, and this review is the result. The unfortunate flop cost $35 million to make and has grossed only about $10 million domestically in almost three weeks. Simply put, Unfinished Business is mindless fun but could have been so much more, and the box office isn’t hiding that fact. Watch it in a few months, when you can do so cheaply and from the comfort of your own living room via streaming or rental. But put the kids to bed first . . . unless you’re okay with hearing them repeat the phrase, “I can see your ball sack.” Thanks, Mike Pancake.
Post Photo Courtesy of: en.wikipedia.org