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"UNFINISHED BUSINESS"
(2015) (Vince Vaughn, Tom Wilkinson) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Dramedy: A small business owner and his rag-tag team travel to Europe in hopes of landing a lucrative mineral sales deal, but must contend with various setbacks and challenges, including his former boss who's gunning for the same contract.
PLOT:
Dan Trunkman (VINCE VAUGHN) is a sales manager at the St. Louis-based Dynamic Systems where his boss, Chuck Portnoy (SIENNA MILLER), has just informed him that he's going to have a five-percent pay cut. Upset about that, he quits and decides to start his own minerals-based firm with numbers man Tim McWinters (TOM WILKINSON), who's just been let go due to his age, and Mike Pancake (DAVE FRANCO), an eager and good-natured but somewhat dimwitted man who just interviewed for a job.

A year later, things aren't going well and Dan is hoping they can land a lucrative business deal with Portland-based Bill Whilmsley (NICK FROST). Dan is banking on this as his wife, Susan (JUNE DIANE RAPHAEL), wants to send their kids -- Paul (BRITTON SEAR), who's being bullied over his weight, and his younger sister, Bess (ELLA ANDERSON) -- to an expensive private school, all while Tim needs the money to divorce his wife. Unfortunately for them, Chuck is also after that business, and her past dealings with Bill's boss, Jim Spinch (JAMES MARSDEN), seem to favor her winning the deal.

Desperate, Dan takes his team to Berlin, Germany in hopes of convincing the executives of the company that they're right for the job. From that point on, they must not only contend with Chuck, but also various challenges and set-backs along the way.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
As a screenwriter, not even the sky is the limit in terms of what can be put on paper (or a computer screen) for structuring the premise, plot and story beats of any film. And while some may think that only really applies to sci-fi and fantasy films that lend themselves to such an approach, any entry in any genre can benefit from such open imagination.

A drama can occur anywhere in the world (or elsewhere in the universe), while a horror film can have an unlikely hero (or villain). Any vocation in the world can be applied to characters in a romantic comedy. Likewise, a regular comedy literally has an unlimited number of elements from which it can choose to elicit laughs -- big or small -- from its intended audience.

All of which makes one wonder why someone -- be that screenwriter Steve Conrad, director Ken Scott, perhaps a cast member or some studio personnel -- thought that the pivotal funny scene in the dramedy "Unfinished Business" should revolve around a few of the central characters reacting to the sight of flaccid penises sticking out of so-called "glory holes" in a gay club's bathroom.

Really? That's the best you could concoct from the infinite possibilities available to you? Then again, perhaps it shouldn't be that surprising considering how a loveable if dimwitted goofball (played by a game Dave Franco -- yes, the younger brother to James) turns out to live in a special needs group home and thus all of those jokes at his expense (about his intelligence or lack thereof) suddenly seem cruel. And that's a bit surprising considering how the serious to semi-serious subplot of the film deals with bullying revolving around an overweight kid being cyber-harassed while his dad (Vince Vaughn) gets a more in-your-face version from his former boss (Sienna Miller) who's inexplicably named Chuck.

Oh wait, there's also the old guy (poor Tom Wilkinson) who cusses a lot when not describing that he needs a divorce so that he can truly "make love" for the first time and do so in the "wheelbarrow" position, something we know we're inevitably going to see (albeit not involving his body).

Beyond the poor choice of hopeful laugh material, the film's biggest issue is its awkward lurching back and forth between said goofy and/or risqué material and those more serious issues. There's no rhythm or real connective tissue to such switches (gags about various nude body parts to talking about bullying back to hard-partying to then trying to close a business deal to save a business and so on) all of which leaves them and the overall film ending up disjointed and haphazard at best.

It's ironic that part of the film is about doing one's best to close a business deal, yet all involved here fail quite badly in terms of impressing the viewer. "Unfinished Business" certainly lives up to its name, while "Glory Hole" would have only been correct on its last part. Likely to disappear into the cinematic abyss, this film rates as a 3 out of 10.




Reviewed March 4, 2015 / Posted March 6, 2015


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