‘Unfinished Business’: What Business?

March 10, 2015 Updated: March 13, 2015

What’s with movies these days? Big chunks of good movie-making technique are getting flushed.

Take, for instance, the current fad of over-the-top, vastly unrealistic set pieces of mayhem, with a million explosions and CGI moving parts, and where the hero emerges from 50 close calls in a row with nary a scratch.

What is that? It’s the movie equivalent of high fructose corn syrup. HFCS tastes good but causes obesity, contains contaminants, and is a staple of nutrient-poor, disease-creating industrial food products and food-like substances.

The point is to anchor “the doings” in reality and then extend it. That’s what comedy is.

The same goes for movies. That overload of inconsequential violence gets into our systems through our eyes and lodges in our brains. In the same way that we are what we eat, we are also what we watch. By ram-jetting all this unrealistic nonsense into our psyches, it goes to work insidiously, in unhealthy ways. But proof thereof is a different article.

One of the good chunks of movie making is learning about what other humans do for a living. Which is why actors hired to play soldiers will do boot camp, practice taking a gun apart blindfolded, and so on.

What business does “Unfinished Business” leave unfinished? It fails to teach us anything about business. Not that that’s the point of the movie, to teach us about business. The point is to anchor “the doings” in reality and then extend it. That’s what comedy is. The more grounded in reality it is, the funnier the departures are.

Starting like a poor man’s “Jerry Maguire,” Daniel (Vince Vaughn) quits his job and storms out, giving a lukewarm “Who’s with me?” speech like a jowly, 6-foot-5 Tom Cruise with half the enthusiasm.

Who’s with him? Not Renée Zellweger. It’s Tim (Tom Wilkinson), fired because of his age, and young Mike (Dave Franco), a job interviewee who appears, well … slow. How slow we’re not sure. But it might be funny. But it also might not; we’re not sure yet. So we stay, we don’t walk out just yet.

 Vince Vaughn, Tom Wilkinson and Dave Franco in a scene from "Unfinished Business." (AP Photo/20th Century Fox, Jessica Miglio)
Vince Vaughn, Tom Wilkinson, and Dave Franco in a scene from “Unfinished Business.” (AP Photo/20th Century Fox, Jessica Miglio)

So off the threesome go, to the local Dunkin’ Donuts (temporary office space) to start a business.

What business? Show us the business! All we know is, it seems to be about “swarf.” That would be the metal shavings left over when steel objects are created. But you can’t tell if they buy or sell swarf.

After a year in their Dunkin’ Donuts office, Dan and team fly from St. Louis to Germany, to shake hands on their company’s first deal. How’d they manage that? We’re not sure! They’re not showing us how business is conducted.

There’s some bad news, though! Dan’s former boss Chuck (Sienna Miller in the Bob Sugar role of “Jerry Maguire”) has beaten them to the punch. She’s supposed to be a bad boss, but Dan’s such a blowhard doofus that everything she says sounds perfectly logical, even good-natured.

It’s an R-rated comedy due to the Germany factor. Anyone who’s spent time in Germany knows the country has nonchalant co-ed saunas among other nudist possibilities.

 There are also German leather bars. These are the R parts. So where are the comedy parts? We’re not sure.

Vaughn’s stock-in-trade (usually funny) hysterical finagler is too tempered by his caring Face-Time dad act with his kids.

Wilkinson’s completely wasted here, but not on German wine—too little to do. All he talks about is wanting to divorce his “vending machine-sized” wife and having the freedom to indulge dirty-old-man fantasies.

James Franco’s kid brother ever so slightly steals the show as the excruciatingly naïve Mike Pancake.

“Unfinished Business” is more or less a comedy about businessmen, but it so blatantly doesn’t show us any actual business. If accurately portraying a profession is hard, comedy’s harder. It started off showing us how to conduct business but never finished. And so the unfunny “Unfinished Business” lives up to its name.

 ‘Unfinished Business’
Director: Ken Scott
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Dave Franco, Tom Wilkinson
Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes
Release date: March 6
Rated R
1 star out of 5

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