I, for one, was not expecting an after-school special in the middle of a movie where characters talk about having wheelbarrow sex, shake dicks through a glory hole, and come right up to the line of making fun of the mentally handicapped. But Unfinished Business is a weird film that smothers the audience in sentiment while also trying to throw in R-rated, tedious gags with one-note characters engaging in generic partying. While there are seeds of good ideas sprinkled throughout, Ken Scott’s film is a business trip where you wish everyone would quit.
After quitting his thankless job due to a pay decrease, Dan (Vince Vaughn) hires the elderly Tim (Tom Wilkinson) and slow-witted Mike (Dave Franco) to start a new company. However, after one year, the company continues to struggle, and its survival rests on closing a big business deal. Dan wants the money so he can send his bullied son to a private school; Tim wants the money so he can get a divorce; and Mike is along for the ride. The guys head to Germany to meet with a big-time CEO, but the trio keeps running into wacky situations.
Early in the film, Dan walks in on his son and thinks that the teenager has been masturbating, which causes the father to launch into an endless “talk” about how it’s okay. Unfinished Business constantly drives failed jokes into the ground. The scene goes on and on as the film tries to mine comedy from a conversation about beating off, which wasn’t a good joke to begin with. While I suppose I admire Scott’s commitment, it’s largely lazy comedy and one-liners that land with a thud like when Tim talks about how he wants his life to be more like Fifty Shades of Grey and says, “I’d settle for one shade of grey.”
While I expected Vaughn to sleepwalk through yet another role, I had hope for Wilkinson and Franco. Wilkinson has never done this kind of film before, and I wanted to see him go raunchy. However, the film gives him the safest situations possible, and the actor seems embarrassed to be in the film. It’s pretty weak to show an old man doing bong hits and talking about wanting to have sex wheelbarrow-style; it’s even less enjoyable when the actor seems particularly enthused to be on board.
Franco is one of my favorite rising stars, and I’ve loved his work in 21 Jump Street and Neighbors. But he made a questionable choice in portraying Mike, and while he does get some of the biggest laughs in the film (few as they may be), there’s always something borderline-offensive about his performance. He’s an oddball, and at times the film is poking fun at his lack of intelligence (such as his inability to pronounce certain words) while also giving him a pat on the back (he has sex with beautiful women multiple times). Mike is par for the course in a movie that has no idea how to balance honest emotions with outlandish situations.
It’s odd that a PG-movie about a father trying to connect with his kids is nestled in this (admittedly safe) R-rated picture, and it’s like a constant apology for anything that might even slightly discomfort the audience. There’s a manufactured heart at the center of the picture, and not a single relationship in the movie feels honest, which is death when you consider that the three leads should have at least a modicum of chemistry. But with Vaughn delivering his standard issue performance, Wilkinson half-heartedly playing his character, and Franco making a miscalculation, perhaps it’s no surprise that the movie leans so heavily on cloying family drama. When it comes to this trip, stay home.