Dave Franco Is Saving Grace Of "Unfinished Business"
It’s all been downhill for Vaughn since 2005’s “Wedding Crashers,” with the star repeatedly saddling his fans – this critic included – with cinematic debris like “Fred Claus” and “The Watch.” The actor’s undeniable charisma has been usurped by his penchant for milquetoast, poorly made laughers, made all the more frustrating by fleeting glimpses of his sizable talent.
If nothing else, “Unfinished Business” makes his past lows seem not quite as low.
Dan Trunkman (Vaughn) is a fledgling small business owner and faltering family man. In the film’s first scene, Dan quits his old job when his boss (Sienna Miller, “American Sniper”) asks him to take a pay cut, leading him to strike out on his own. As if the world is short a folksy metal shavings company.
Meanwhile, problems mount at home. His overweight teenage son is the target of school bullying, causing Mrs. Trunkman (June Diane Raphael, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”) to push for a private school the family can’t afford.
Now his own boss, Dan sees one major deal as his way out. Along with two newly minted employees – more on them in a moment – he sets out to Portland for a handshake he thinks is a foregone conclusion. Complications inevitably ensue, leading the trio to Germany to get a leg up on their competition.
Dave Franco (“21 Jump Street”) – destined to be forever known as James Franco’s little brother – is the only reason to even think about checking out “Unfinished Business.” Without his delirious performance as Vaughn’s mentally challenged underling, the film would be a total loss. While not exactly tasteful, Franco’s turn here is a scream, with the actor effortlessly disconnecting his brain from the rest of his body.
As for Dan’s other employee, it’s hard to imagine an actor more out of his element than Oscar-nominee Tom Wilkinson (“Michael Clayton”) is here. Wilkinson plays a horny old goat whose only comedic purpose comes in the form of “look at the old guy taking bong rips!” It’s the kind of performance that might haunt an actor if it were at all memorable. Thankfully it dissipates just as quickly as the film it’s in, a mere footnote on a project that’s certain to be forgotten.
Despite the film’s the graphic male nudity – played for laughs that it doesn’t get – and shopworn road trip clichés, the screenplay is not without a few good ideas. While in Germany, the only hotel room Dan can find turns out to be part of a living museum exhibit. His place as “American Businessman 42″ – constantly observed through plate glass windows by tourists – is a funny conceit. It’s the pic’s only subplot worth a damn, and likely would have made a far more interesting “A” story than its actual “A” story.
Worst of all are the movie’s incessant, out of place attempts to pull at our heartstrings – well meaning, but symbolic of the project at large. It all comes across like it was assembled from a construct-a-movie kit, with only a few dashes of personality and a whole lot of laziness.
But perhaps “Unfinished Business” is truly a movie for our times – best enjoyed in Dave Franco-centric YouTube clips.
Rating: ★★ out of ★★★★★ (Not So Good)
Release Date: March 6, 2015
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Ken Scott
Screenwriter: Steve Conrad
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Dave Franco, Tom Wilkinson, Sienna Miller, James Marsden, Nick Frost
MPAA Rating: R (for some strong risque sexual content/graphic nudity, and for language and drug use)