Unfinished Business

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday March 6, 2015

A scene from 'Unfinished Business'
A scene from 'Unfinished Business'  (Source:Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Reel FX Productions II, LLC)

How do you package a raunchy comedy that includes international travel, drinking, the wheelbarrow position, a morality play about shameful corporate practices, drug use, digs at the art scene, family drama, male inadequacy, sex maids, G8 protests and riot cops, employment opportunities for the differently abled, sexual satisfaction for the near-70 set, and glory holes... and then tie it all in with a strong anti-bullying message?

The Vince Vaughn-starring "Unfinished Business" manages to get all these elements into a single movie. There are laughs, and there's a complete arc in which the founder of a startup company faces off with ruthless competition (in the form of a gorgeous, aggressive blonde so possessed of corporate machismo she goes by the name Chuck; she's played by Sienna Miller) while juggling family responsibilities. But the laughs lack punch, and the social messages are muddled at best.

Still, there is a palpable sweetness to the film, thanks to Vaughn's laid-back performance and co-star Dave Franco's goofiness. Franco plays Mike, a young guy who, being young, is perpetually horny; his problem is that he doesn't have the bandwidth or confidence to pursue girls. (The other co-star, Tom Wilkinson, is more problematic in the role of Tim, a 67-year-old man who, despite his years, is every bit as horny and frustrated as young Mike.)

Comedies taking the corporate mentality to task are nothing new, but they are, by and large, toothless wish fulfillment. So too here, though the film's structure -- part road movie, part sexually-charged labyrinth of absurdist plotting -- ensures maximum velocity, with occasional pit-stops for Vaughn's dispensations of wise advice. (This despite the running gag of Vaughn's character, Dan, worrying incessantly over his daughter's homework assignment, which he's supposed to be helping her with, but which he's overthinking to a ludicrous degree. At least this narrative device provides a reason for the film's explanatory voice-overs.)

The storyline is as thin as a paper towel, and not nearly as absorbent: Dan quits his job at Chuck's company when, despite being the firm's top salesman, he's told he's going to have to take a 5% pay cut. (In a jab aimed squarely at the self-justifications of the 1%, Chuck unapologetically refuses to take any such cut herself, declaring herself worth her self-determined salary.) Wilkinson's Tim is dismissed the same day due to having just turned 67. The two men make a parking lot deal in which they determine to start their own business; Mike happens along and is swept up in their enthusiasm. A year goes by, during which Dan fails to notice that Mike has severe learning disabilities, because he's too busy putting together a major deal with a mega-corporation -- a deal that could make or break his nascent firm. To close the deal, Dan and his two cohorts have to fly to Berlin and brave youth hostels, Oktoberfest, and a European edition of the Folsom street fair, all to secure a handshake that will secure their future. The usual shenanigans ensue, spiced up with a few "daring" inclusions, such as limp dicks (prosthetic, from the look of them) dangling from glory holes and a business meeting conducted in a mixed-gender steam room.

The naughty stuff is pretty mild -- actually, it's juvenile and it falls far short of its Eurotrash / Almodovar aspirations -- but it probably does serve to comment on the down-and-dirty mechanics of business negotiations. The problem is, it's down-and-dirty as imagined by a seventh grader.

Appearances by James Marsden and Nick Frost lend hunk appeal and comedic value, respectively, but can't dent this film's middle-of-the-road, fairly bland affect.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.