Magazine article Variety

Unfinished Business

Magazine article Variety

Unfinished Business

Article excerpt

Unfinished Business

DIRECTOR: Ken Scott

STARRING: Vince Vaughn, Tom Wilkinson, Dave Franco

A comedy with its heart in the right place and everything else bizarrely out of joint, "Unfinished Business" finds director Ken Scott following 2013's "Delivery Man" with another dubious attempt to sell audiences on Vince Vaughn's sensitive side. Playing a down-on-his-luck family man who takes an ill-advised business trip to Berlin with two unfunny sidekicks in tow (portrayed by Tom Wilkinson and Dave Franco), Vaughn is admittedly the least of the movie's worries: Awkwardly wrapping its message of self-acceptance in a layer of crude sexual humor, the film personified is like a date who tries to pat you on the back with one hand while feeling you up with the other. As such, "Unfinished" looks unlikely to do much business, or to end the nearly decade-long string of mediocrities ("Fred Claus," "Four Christmases," "The Dilemma," "The Watch," "The Internship") that has plagued its star.

Whereas "Delivery Man" featured Vaughn as an underachieving, over-procreating man-child, Scott's latest film casts him as the much more responsible Dan Trunkman, a St. Louis husband and father who loves his wife (June Diane Raphael) and two kids, but sometimes neglects them in his efforts to get his professional life back on track. In a prologue that suggests a discarded subplot from "Horrible Bosses," we see Dan quitting his job in the highly competitive mineral sales industry, fed up with his ball-busting superior, Chuck (Sienna Miller). Now he's striking out on his own as head of Apex Select, a fledgling company he's founded with two less-than-promising associates: Tim (Wilkinson), a sad-sack former colleague who's past retirement age, and Mike (Dave Franco), a friendly young tagalong who's a few compartments short of a briefcase.

A year later, Dan seems to have successfully negotiated for Apex to be acquired by a massive firm called the Benjaminson Group - at least until he realizes that his company is being treated as "the fluffer," a sort of decoy for a much bigger deal involving Dan's former employer, placing him in direct competition with the sneering Chuck. Although he knows he doesn't have a chance against the big boys (and girl), determined Dan insists on flying with Tim and Mike to Berlin, where they hope to convince Benjaminson's corporate overlords to reconsider. Amid the ensuing shenanigans, he must not only thwart Chuck and her slick confidant (James Marsden), but also make time for pep talks with his overweight teenage son (Britton Sear) and unhappy young daughter (Ella Anderson), who are having trouble fitting in. It's tough being a man, in other words - or so goes the logic of a movie where women tend to fall into the categories of bitchy boss, supportive spouse and nameless lust object.

This brand of underdog/misfit dramedy is familiar enough territory for screenwriter Steve Conrad, whose scripts have largely centered around the funny-sad spectacle of an ordinary guy trying to transcend his glum material circumstances - most recently in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," and before that in "The Weather Man" and "The Pursuit of Happyness," still the best film produced from his work. If "Unfinished Business" feels like the worst, it's because unlike its predecessors, it's been forced to operate like an overly broad sex farce, a genre for which neither Conrad nor director Scott demonstrates any particular flair or conviction. …

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