The longest 90 minutes of my life were spent watching Unfinished Business, the cardboard comedy from director Ken Scott. Based on a script by the perpetually mediocre Steve Conrad (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty), Unfinished Business is the weakest, most unnecessary movie of 2015 thus far.
There's a notion in Hollywood that you can put Vince Vaughn in the middle of anything and it will be funny. It's not true. Vaughn is best as a supporting player and his motor hums a little faster when his co-stars are actual comedians. Vaughn falters when he's the main character (Delivery Man), the script is useless (Neighborhood Watch), or when his co-stars aren't up to snuff (The Dilemma). Unfinished Business is the perfect storm of Vince Vaughn warning signs.
The 44-year-old actor plays Dan Trunkman, a family man, in Scott's movie who quits his job as a minerals salesman (what?) in order to start his own company. His Jerry Maguire exit doesn't net him a beautiful assistant like Renée Zellweger, however, but an older guy who's been forced out, Tim (Tom Wilkinson), and a blithering moron named Mike Pancake (Dave Franco), whose resume starts and ends at Foot Locker.
The fact the filmmakers thought the name "Mike Pancake" was funny enough to stick in a film tells you everything you need to know. But there are worse jokes we'll get to.
Armed with a new team, the movie flash forwards a year. Dan's business is run out of a Dunkin Donuts in a typical product mention and somehow Mike Pancake is still around even though he's Brick Tamland dumb. Dan has his heart set on a new deal that will keep the business afloat so the three guys head to Germany to get the handshake.
Back home, Dan's overweight son is being bullied in school and we must endure Facetime conversations where Vaughn plays the kind dad and tells his kid he's special. One groan-inducing scene shows Vaughn wearing teal eye shadow because the kid did it to try to fit in with "the weird kids." The contrived family scenes are brutal, the kind of unearned sentimentality that Adam Sandler hocks with a straight face.
In Germany, the boys run into trouble when Dan's old boss, the curiously named Chuck (Sienna Miller), shows up and threatens the deal. This gives everyone more time to have fun in Germany and we're treated to yawn-inducing sequences at a German Folsom Fair where nudity is the punch line; a spa where nudity is the punch line; and Mike Pancake sexual exploits where stupidity, and, yes, nudity is the punch line.
I was interested in this movie mainly because of Tom Wilkinson's involvement. But the writing isn't worthy of him, and the veteran dramatic actor is relegated to a perverted old man who has no idea how to take a bong hit. Franco, for his part, does his best to copy Steve Carell's act in Anchorman but he's only awkward, not funny. I've never been more disappointed by three actors I like so much.
Unfinished Business is devoid of a plot, which many comedies are, but it's also not funny so that makes for a grueling movie experience. Even at 90 minutes, the film seems dreadfully long and none of the actors help things with even a moment of creative grace. Vaughn, neutered in a straight man role, is weighed down by having to return to the family subplot with the unhappy son. It's inserted so the movie has a way to wrap things up, but it's just as phony as simply ending things mid-sentence. Why even bother?