A struggling businessman on his own trying to do right for himself and his family. Two employees, one hapless the other experienced and cynical. An evil, but hot, competitor. Have we seen this movie before? Yes. However – and there is a big however here – UNFINISHED BUSINESS is idiosyncratic, genuinely funny and has gags and motifs which save it from being rote, mindless and dull. Screenwriter Steve Conrad (THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY, THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS) and director Ken Scott (DELIVERY MAN) have struck a fine balance with their power trio which could have gone terribly cloyingly wrong but instead leaves your sides aching from laughter and you cheering them on.
Our greatest living everyman, Vince Vaughn, plays Dan Trunkman, a salesman for a scrap metal company. It doesn’t matter if we understand or know what the industry is and in a way it helps that it’s obscure. It doesn’t distract us from the real story of the movie which are our three character’s personal goals and struggles. Dan opens the film by having a great argument with his now boss, the pythonic Chuck Portnoy played by Sienna Miller. MiIler has been seen on a multitude of screens lately and while she is able to fulfill this role without a hitch, she also offers nothing much of particular value to it which says more about the role than her acting skill. In fact, one of my two only criticisms of the film is that her role, the only female executive in the film, is portrayed as borderline sadistic and surreptitious. Sadly it would have been good to see a female executive prevail through intelligence and skill rather than being a colossal bitch in a tight red dress. But oh well…it’s Hollywood.
After Vaughn walks out of the company to start his own shop he is gifted with the fired mature Timothy, played by the great Tom Wilkinson, and the utterly clueless Mike played so endearingly by Dave Franco. It so nice that, at least in this role, Franco lacks any of the smug attitude that tinges every role his brother James plays, and therefore can deliver an innocence that is so convincing, refreshing and works perfectly in the story. Maybe some things luckily don’t run in families. Wilkinson’s comedic talent is as the straight guy and he does a fantastic job of it. His ability to utter embarrassing phrases and demands of his hotel maid without so much as a flinch is one for the ages and he is completely believable. His motivation to succeed comes from the most genuine and humanistic of drives and we love him for it. Franco too is skilled in slowly revealing just how radically inept and ignorant he is, and he makes us laugh in disbelief the whole way.
UNFINISHED BUSINESS isn’t going to change your life, or motivate you to pursue your dreams. And that’s fine. But it does realistically portray the struggles we face at different stages of life. Vaughn has a family and his kids are troubled. The movie makes some good and relevant points about the nature of our virtual connectedness and how it is used to help as well as harm us both personally and professionally. Instagram is neither the devil nor the savior and I give credit to writer Conrad for his balanced approach and use of our app-laden lives. Vaughn’s Dan is trying to define himself through the use of a homework assignment for his daughter. It is a simple but potent narrative element that, in addition to other features and details, gives value to the movie without saccharin clichés. Those details were far more than I ever expected. There are repeated gags which evolve and which are wonderfully hilarious. Additionally the film spends a great deal of time in Berlin which is a fantastic backdrop for poking some fun at the Germans in a loving and utterly real way. Berlin, and its inhabitants, is a character in the movie and no other locale would have served the story as well. Vaughn’s hotel room in Berlin is one of the best bits I’ve ever seen and I am still laughing about it. His use of FaceTime is also something I feel assured will come into common practice in the population at large.
Vaughn’s targets are the decision makers at a big global company based in Germany. James Marsden is the unctuous American head and he is well cast to fulfill the quotient of duplicitous corporate deceit. His assistant is played by Nick Frost who is loveable in whatever he takes on, this being no exception. The company is so big in fact that the CEO is attending the G8 there during the Berlin portion of our story. Concurrent with the G8 are also the Berlin marathon, Oktoberfest and a massive gay gathering all of which figure into our story. My second major criticism centers around the portrayal of the attendees of the gay gathering which seem to include only those men who like to dress exclusively, and minimally, in leather. It is a stereotypical and narrow representation but hey – I don’t look to Hollywood for fairness. Ahem. UNFINISHED BUSINESS is a good time and a little bit more. It is entertainment in the purest sense of the word, and we need that. Vaughn has carved out his niche and it’s a good one. Comedy is hard and all too often cheap, contemptuous and stupid. To me, in my church of the dark theater, to hear the whole room laugh in unison is a blessed event. Get out there and be a part of the explers!(3.5 / 5)
Movie Review Unfinished Business