The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Unfinished Business

I'm a big Vince Vaughn fan. I think his part in Wedding Crashers is criminally perfect, one of the best comedic performances I can think of, well, ever. His selections since that infamous 2005 comedy have been pretty hit or miss, including most recently his much-maligned part in HBO's second season of True Detective. But while the source material isn't always good, I typically like Vaughn. So with some nerves, I dove into 2015's Unfinished Business, a comedy that got lousy reviews and did awful in the box office. And away we go!

Dan Trunkman (Vaughn) is at a crossroads in his career. Told he will be getting a 5 percent commission decrease at work on business deals, Dan decides to up and quit, vowing to start his own company in the same field from the ground up. Two employees follow him out the door, Timothy McWinters (Tom Wilkinson), a longtime employee in his late 60's who's let go because he's too old, and Mike Pancake (Dave Franco), a young interviewee who actually wasn't employed but just interviewed for a position. Dan swears he'll get something going....that never really happens. Not right away at least as a year later, Dan is still trying to close his first business deal, a prominent one hanging in the air just waiting to get the handshake done. The problem? His former employer is similarly tracking the same deal, and the only way to get it done is for Dan, Tim and Mike to head to Berlin to wrap things up. Let the international hijinks begin.

Well....the trailer looked pretty funny. That's good, right? 'Unfinished' earned an impressive 11% at Rotten Tomatoes and barely cracked $10 million at the box office. I thought the premise sounded funny, the cast was pretty talented and was looking for some good laughs, so not a whole lot of demands. From director Ken Scott and writer Steve Conrad, 'Unfinished' just doesn't have enough laughs. The story is all over the place, trying to be a hard R-rated comedy while also mixing in some family drama that is dead on arrival. Pick one or the other and stick with it. If you pick wrong, so be it but at least you're not trying to appeal to all sides. It rarely ends well going with both options, and even at just 91 minutes, this comedy gets a tad sluggish along the way.

There are haters and/or doubters out there, but I love Vince Vaughn. He's at his best dealing out lightning-quick jabs, almost always delivered in a subtle, underplayed fashion that leaves you burned later because that insult was so damn good. Playing father and businessman Dan, Vaughn -- like the script -- is kind of trapped in no man's land. His character just seems irritated a lot, mostly because everyone around him is an idiot. He gets his usual rants and ravings in and has a good running bit about being part of a hotel art display, but too often he's left to play the straight man to the antics and shenanigans all around him. His selections in films have left something to desire over the last 10 years, but when given the opportunity, he shows he can still kill it with an impeccable line delivery. I just wish there had been more of that.

As if his co-workers weren't bad enough (more on that to come), Vaughn's character and the movie across the board is undone by the family drama inserted into a comedy that preached an R-rating and looked to be raunchy, nasty and dirty. No such luck, or not enough, or no balance among it all. You choose. There's his loving wife (June Diane Raphael), his bullied, overweight son (Britton Sear) and his daughter (Ella Anderson) who stands up for her older brother. It is a plot line with no life, no energy and would seem more appropriate for a Full House episode.

So Tom Wilkinson and Dave Franco as sidekicks...yeah, that sounds good. But that damn script again has its way. Franco delivers one of the most uncomfortable parts I've ever seen, his Mike Pancake (Yes, that's his name and the joke is beaten to death) a pretty slow young man who's innocent, naive, looking to get laid and, well, seemingly mentally challenged but all at the expense of one joke after another. It is painful. PAINFUL. Wilkinson is a pro but his character is similarly poorly-written, an older, married man who's looking to get a divorce and have some crazy European sex too as long as he's got the chance. So....yeah, that's not good. In tiny snippets, the trio does have good chemistry but they get buried under a sea of repetitive jokes that are short on actual laughs.

Rounding out the cast but given little to do beyond being cliched cardboard cutouts, look for Sienna Miller, James Marsden and Nick Frost as assorted other characters that do stuff.

Just a big disappointment overall. There was some potential for a halfway decent comedy, but that never really comes around. Not enough laughs and too many dumb twists and awkwardly forced family issues to be an enjoyable comedy.

Unfinished Business (2015): * 1/2 /****

1 comment:

  1. ha, that's 1/2 too much. man this movie was so bad. like a non-movie. i still think VV's best work is Swingers.