Movie Review: “Unfinished Business”

Vince Vaughn, Tom Wilkinson, Dave Franco, Sienna Miller, James Marsden
Ken Scott

Ken Scott, the filmmaker behind “Starbuck” and its Hollywood remake, “Delivery Man,” has reunited with Vince Vaughn, the lead from his bland 2013 film, for another project. The idea of the director and star of that comedy teaming up again isn’t exactly enticing, and neither is the final result, because once again, the duo has failed to deliver with “Unfinished Business.”

Vaughn stars as Daniel Trunkman, a salesman who quits his unsatisfying job and goes off to start his own business. What does Trunkman sell for a living? A product so boring that it’s hardly ever mentioned in the film, and when it is, Trunkman only comments on how dull the merchandise is. Trunkman only has two employees, Timothy McWinters (Tom Wilkinson) and Mike Pancake (Dave Franco), an odd but satisfying pairing responsible for most of the film’s scarce laughs. The small company is in serious need of a sale, so when a financially promising opportunity rises, the boss and his employees will stop at nothing to close the potential deal. Their work brings them to Berlin, where they’ll have to compete against Trunkman’s old boss, Charlie (Sienna Miller), for the sale.

While “Unfinished Business” initially looks to be an ensemble comedy, it mostly rests on the shoulders of its biggest star, which is a shame. Vaughn isn’t an actor that pushes himself to new places. He has a comedic persona which he rarely strays from, often playing straight shooters with a motormouth, and that’s the character he plays once again in Scott’s film. Every comic note Vaughn hits is stale and expected. There’s nothing fresh about his style or approach anymore; it’s tired and outdated. As for Wilkinson and Franco, they’re far more energetic and engaged than their co-star.

To be fair, it doesn’t help that Vaughn doesn’t have the best material to work with. “Unfinished Business” doesn’t aim high, which is perfectly fine, but it doesn’t even reach its low bar, considering the laughs are very few and far between. Steve Conrad’s script is comically lifeless, frequently running a series of jokes into the ground. The screenwriter builds on lines or gags that didn’t even land the first time around, meaning we’re often served reminders of jokes we’ve already forgotten.

What’s most disappointing about “Unfinished Business” is Conrad’s involvement. The writer is responsible for one of the best comedies and dramas of the past decade: “The Weather Man.” Conrad seamlessly blended together raunchy humor, pathos and drama in Gore Verbinski’s highly overlooked film, but he’s unable to pull off that tricky balancing act in this instance. The journey Trunkman goes on is completely up Conrad’s alley, as he mainly writes about characters struggling with professional or personal failure – the people who don’t have their dream job or dream life. Even in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” Conrad mostly succeeded in exploring the comedic and dramatic possibilities in that conflict, but he doesn’t even come close with “Unfinished Business.”

Almost everything about Daniel Trunkman’s life rings false, because his arc is so calculated, safe and easy. The few moments with Trunkman’s wife and kids are exhaustingly trite and, more than that, complete filler in an already overlong 90-minute movie. The subplot involving Trunkman’s bullied children are deleted scenes that somehow found their way into the final cut, and the same can be said for plenty of other jokes and scenes that squash any chance “Unfinished Business” had at building some momentum, resulting in a thin, tone deaf and seriously unfunny comedy.