For a long time I had a neat little system for deciding which films were worthy of my hard-earned moolah: whichever had the best reviews got the dollars. Then over time my work on here showed me that good reviews and my opinion were not necessarily the same, and my choices regarding what I would pay to see took on a new life. The transition has been slow but I finally took the chance earlier this year and unfortunately it didn’t pay off as I hated it more than the critics. I wasn’t deterred and when it came to an impasse on my next review I decided to throw caution into the wind a second time.
Unfinished Business was a whole new experience; the reviews were awful but though this was a business decision. This was my chance to get in ahead of all others so I put my feelings aside, tossed all caution away and thankfully I was rewarded.
Daniel Trunkman (Vince Vaughn) is a businessman who knows what he’s worth. When he’s offered less by his callous boss Chuck Portnoy (Sienna Miller) he opts out in favour of starting his own company. By chance he recruits Timothy McWinters (Tom Wilkinson), a victim of workplace ageism, and young Mike Pancake (Dave Franco), who just happened to be there for a job interview. The three leave with great optimism but a year later they’re still working out of a donut shop, trying to make their big break.
Things change when Dan is offered a deal to be sealed by a handshake in Europe with Jim Spinch (James Marsden) and Bill Whilmsley (Nick Frost). But they’ve got to go through a rental car with German GPS, a gay club, a hotel room in the form of an artistic performance, G8 Summit riots and Chuck herself in order to secure what seems like such a simple business deal.
Their trip is a transition as Tim discovers a new lease on life through pot, ecstasy and beer while Dan goes through a couple of first-time sexual experiences. But Dan has it the hardest as he tries to be the best parent he can to his son Paul (Britton Spear) and young misunderstanding daughter Bess (Ella Anderson), all while he tries to define what kind of father he really is.
Unfinished Business is unfocussed, at different points offering doses of gross-out comedy, some sort of rom-com, one of those early-2000’s road trip comedies and even light-hearted drama. Each scene is like a different genre of its own, leaving you asking what it’s really meant to be, and because of this the film has no natural flow and the transition from one situation to the next feels very clunky. The jokes are actually quite good and recurring gags are not overused but apart from a few select moments they never come across as well as they could have.
It also lacks a definitive theme or moral because of this. There are themes relating to overworking, absent parenting, cyber-bullying, lost youth and self-discovery, and though it identifies all of them they’re never explored. The film seems to make an attempt to be more than just another comedy but this works against it more than anything. It might have been wiser to just go for gross-out stupidity and live with it.
The one thing that does redeem this film is the cast. Vince Vaughn is a great leading man, even if he does have his detractors, while Tom Wilkinson shows a great wealth of diverse experience as he plays his role convincingly. Let’s not forget that not too long ago he was playing a former President. But my kudos goes to Dave Franco playing the child-like and strangely weird Mike Pancake. It was his cheesy grin, random lines and naïveté that had me laughing the most.
But while their performances are good the rest of the cast exist purely to make the film work. Nick Frost gets at least one moment of character development and plays a pivotal role later in the film but apart from the three mains they’re simply there because they need to be.
Unfinished Business isn’t a great film, it’s not even a good comedy, but for what it was I can live with spending thirteen bucks on it. Not every film has to be a critical winner, sometimes seeing something average or laughably bad is just as good if not better. I was having an off day when I went with the Dudette (who enjoyed it too, mind you) and I can honestly say if I had gone to see a drama or thriller I would probably still be feeling the same.
One thing I took out of this new experience was how it related to the film itself. They all took a risk, stepped out of their comfort zone and discovered something new about themselves, and though it’s on a much smaller scale that’s what happened to me. It was one big refresher to ditch Rotten Tomatoes for ninety minutes and go to the cinema without having to take in too much. It’s all well and good to be on the go but just like those in Unfinished Business you’ve got to know when to sit back and just enjoy the down time.