About halfway through the dreadful new buddy comedy, Unfinished Business, Vince Vaughn’s straight-man protagonist vents to a few stoners in a smoking den by stating, “Teasing sucks.” That’s ironic, considering a large portion of jokes within this sloppy, terribly unfunny film consist of mocking mentally challenged individuals, the gay community, the entire country of Germany, and even people with silly last names. What’s even worse is that this moment comes during one of the picture’s several mushy gushy scenes where the film tries to convince audiences that it has a heart. I expected this film to be rude, crude and vulgar, but an added layer of phony sentimentality? Yuck.
The film’s in trouble from the opening scene, which is so awkward that I assume people who’ve turned in to watch it on cable will assume they’ve missed the first half-hour. Vaughn stars as Dan Trunkman, a struggling employee at a large corporation who quits his job after his tyrannical boss, Chuck Portnoy (Sienna Miller) economically castrates him with a five percent pay cut. Determined to start his own business, Vaughn teams up with a sad-sack old-timer, Timothy McWinters (a clearly depressed Tom Wilkinson) and a ‘slow,’ nerdy interviewee, Dan Pancake (Dave Franco, doing an impersonation of Adam Sandler’s titular character from The Waterboy) to succeed in a more deserved workplace. Cue the obligatory business trip to a European city (in this case, Berlin; they must be so proud) where the trio of misfits find themselves amidst their series of raunchy escapades.
It’s all as tired and formulaic as it sounds, which is bad enough, but in addition to that, half of the movie is also dedicated to an unnecessary subplot revolving around Vaughn skyping back home to his adolescent kids, who are struggling to fit in at school. His overweight son is consistently picked on, resulting in his younger daughter beating up her brother’s bullies, and it’s in this material that the picture goes from dumb, dudebro comedy to an unbearably queasy hybrid of dramedy. In one sequence, Vaughn gives a supposedly touching monologue to one of his children about being a good person over his laptop. Cut to Franco approaching a European girl in a coffee shop, then immediately f*cking her in the wheelbarrow position less than a minute later. Charming, right?
Not that movies filled to the brim with scatological gags are incapable of having a genuine emotional core, but it’s a very tricky balancing act. Recent examples such as Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up, Nicholas Stoller’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids earned their tender moments of sincerity, but they also never resorted to tackling easy targets in a mean-spirited fashion. Sure, several of the punch lines revolved around a character’s discomfort, or even physical pain, but our laughter towards them always stemmed from their sympathetic portrayals of comic misfortune. Here, not only is the humor offensive, but condescendingly lazy.
How lazy, you might ask? On multiple occasions, a bunch of grown men stop what they’re doing to make fun of Franco’s character for having the last name, ‘Pancake,’ despite the fact that their last names happen to be ‘Trunkman,’ ‘McWinters,’ ‘Whilmsley’ and ‘Spinch’ (great job, screenwriter Steve Conrad). Vaughn panics about not wanting to give up his upgraded first-class seat on a flight to a disabled war veteran. Franco points at naked women and yells, “Boobs! Buttcracks!” at a unisex spa. Wilkinson hires a sexy maid and gets a real one by accident. A GPS keeps repeating ‘funny’ German words. And there’s even an extended set piece at a gay sex club where Vaughn gets antsy after one character sticks their penis through a glory hole, before Franco eventually slips and gets dickslapped right in the face.
Directed with flat, hackneyed precision by Ken Scott (Delivery Man), Unfinished Business is so unfocused that not even the ‘business’ aspects of the plot make any sense. The financial gobbledygook consists of lines such as ‘the numbers look good,’ as if the actors forgot their lines and broke the fourth wall thinking about the paychecks they’ll receive for having suffered through this comedic dead-zone. When the great Tom Wilkinson taking massive rips out of a bong doesn’t even fill me with a juvenile sense of joy, I know I’m on a very sad business trip to the movies. This is one of the worst films of the year.
Director: Ken Scott
Film Length: 91 minutes
Release Date: March 6, 2015
Distributor: 20th Century Fox