Unfinished Business has been wrongfully advertising itself as a comedy. It’s more of a laughless drag of a film than anything else, one that does not utilize any of the comedic talents of its cast. Somehow, the film renders Vince Vaughn and Dave Franco as woefully unfunny and self-serious individuals, a glaringly bad casting choice. Vaughn is a talented comedic actor that’s been stuck in the trenches for years, working with the same people (here, re-teaming with Delivery Man director Ken Scott) and dealing with one comedic misfire after another. Also, did you know that Tom Wilkinson is in this? The Tom Wilkinson? The one from Oscar-nominated films like Michael Clayton and In the Bedroom? Yeah, the film’s full of poor decisions. Yet most ironically, it’s a film that aims for the heart and wants the audience to feel for its characters’ struggles as up-and-coming salesmen. Yet the difficult-to-define selling along with the off-putting, out-classed gay jokes and the misguided decision to address the pandemic of bullying make the film a relatively laughless, painful affair.
Dan Trunkman (Vince Vaughn) feels like his company just doesn’t appreciate him enough. He’s worked hard in the past year, and instead of getting a bonus, his paycheck is cut because of spending costs around the company. When he argues with Chuck (Sienna Miller), his boss, about the issue, he ultimately quits and decides he wants to start his own sales firm. Along the way, he takes 67-year old Timothy (Tom Wilkinson) and nervous right-out-of-college student Mike Pancake (Dave Franco). Together, they struggle to launch their company that sells a variation of sheet metal; the details are not important since the film does not dwell on them, and frankly everything about their business is sketchy and full of overly professional jargon. When a promising sale emerges that requires them to travel out of the country, Dan hops on the next plane and heads to Germany, where he will meet with Jim (James Marsden) and Bill (Nick Frost) about their hopeful game-changing sale. Yet the appearance of Chuck makes issues overwhelmingly difficult, and their struggles continue.
If that makes the film sound eventful of even remotely interesting, I suggest reading a lengthy and detailed book about sales or business. That will prove more exciting than the ensuing film, which devolves into gay bathroom jokes, inconsistent plot developments, and a severe lack of comedic timing. When a joke isn’t timed properly, it falls flat and loses all of its potential. It can even backfire and show the obviousness or strain used to make that joke happen. Those moments arise far too often in a film that’s supposed to be a surprising, shock-filled comedy in the vein of The Hangover. Instead, it feels like a tepid ’90s comedy that is coming years too late to a party that wasn’t even all that innovative to begin with. Regardless, the cast is capable but proves that execution is key in a comedy. When the writing is this flat and concerned with family drama over pushing forward the main plot, there’s something wrong. Unfinished Business is just a laughless comedy without direction or excitement, another sad case in the doldrums of the beginning of 2015.
Grade: ★ (out of 5)