From the Archives: Unfinished Business review (Dawn of Mike Pancake)

From the Archives: Unfinished Business review (Dawn of Mike Pancake)

In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it. 

Without further ado, I present to you: FROM THE ARCHIVES.
Originally posted on Cinema76.

Unfinished Business is nigh-unwatchable garbage. I can count on two hands the amount of times I found myself lost in my own unrelated thoughts because I found them to be preferable entertainment to the unmitigated disaster unfolding on screen. Even with my expectations at an absolute low, it still managed to be disappointing, if not fascinating in the same manner that I imagine witnessing a plane crash would be. Unfinished Business is the story of Dan Trunkman (Vince Vaughn) who quits his job doing I-don’t-know-what to start his own business doing the same I-don’t-know-what in an effort to spite his former boss (Sienna Miller) who insulted him in a way that frankly, seemed totally reasonable. After walking out, he teams up with a foul-mouthed older businessman (Tom Wilkinson, who is so much better than this) and a younger fellow (Dave Franco, who probably isn’t), and sets out to crush his former employer. Oh, and Franco’s character is named Mike Pancake, which is the funniest gag in the movie. Not so funny is that he is explicitly stated as being mentally challenged. Not that that’s offensive, per se, just lame.

Fast forward a year and the trio is on the verge of closing a deal (the details of which are never illuminated outside of “look at those numbers!”) that will make their upstart a success. Naturally, Dan’s former boss, behaving in a completely reasonable, non-criminal way, is also seeking to close the same deal or something. Whatever. I don’t care. Something that resembles hilarity ensues. Drugs are taken. Boobs show up. Dave Franco ends up in a slap fight inside an inflatable hamster ball. Yadda yadda yadda. There’s also a subplot involving Dan’s kids dealing with bullying, and it’s painfully difficult to care, let alone fully understand.

Even at a mercifully short 90 minutes, this corporate frat comedy (if there is such a thing) is a punishing exercise in vicarious embarrassment. As Vaughn meanders through a series of increasingly uninspired situations, delivering his trademarked fast-talk at an uncharacteristically slovenly pace, it’s tough not to feel mortified at his expense. Behind his shaggy dog eyes it’s easy to see a touch of that crackling wit which made him a household name yearning to come forward, but it never does. It’s hard to tell if it’s because he isn’t trying or because the material is just so terrible, but I really pray it’s the latter. I miss the Vince Vaughn of Swingers and Old School, and I get the sense he does too. Or at least I hope he does.

UB-postI want to call the production lazy (and trust me, a lot of it is), but I also can’t help but wonder if audiences have simply moved past this type of comedy. Certainly it wouldn’t have been any better a decade ago, but it would have been more suited to the time. Regardless, who could blame it for being so out of touch? In a world where even the most minimally edgy joke can set off the hair trigger offense complex of modern audiences, we’ve gotten out of practice, and in Unfinished Business, it shows.

There are a few exchanges that can’t help but be funny. The formula is so simple and easy to repeat, that statistically it has to work a few times: Franco doesn’t understand something, a frustrated Vaughn explains it in a slightly condescending way, and then the whole thing is derailed by Wilkinson saying something filthy. Rinse. Repeat. Toss in a glory hole here and a masturbation joke there and you’ve got yourself a movie, albeit one not worth watching.

The amount of effort it took not to leave the theater is matched only by the shock in realizing that fellow theater goers were eating this garbage up like candy. Unfunny, nonsensical, and utterly without purpose, Unfinished Business is dead in the water long before the 20 minute mark. Luckily, its nonexistent ad campaign and shushed release means it’ll be forgotten about in a few weeks, if it’s even noticed at all. If I were to leave a pull-quote on the eventual DVD, it might read something like this: “Stop talking to me. I need to go home and shower. Seriously, go away.” – Dan Scully,

Unfinished Business opens today in Philly area theaters.

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