Someone must have invented a time machine because it seems like this movie, which only came out last year, has traveled to the future from the distant past of 2002. A time when the only known sources of humor came from extended gross-out gags and innuendos as opposed to characters in situations with irony. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t good comedies from back then or bad comedies that come out now, but it’s jarring when you see a movie that feels like it should have come out on the heels of American Pie being released now.
This movie centers itself on the sympathetic plight of being a Dad who’s work takes him away from home at a time when his family is in crisis. Like Vaughn’s last attempt at Fatherly mishaps in Delivery Man, this movie fails to live up to the potential of its premise. There’s a lot of humor and heartfelt struggle to be had at the dilemma of being there for your family when you have to be in two places at once. Unfortunately, Unfinished Business keeps yanking away from what could be a place of relatable struggle, instead offering the broad strokes of what it means to be a travelling father and starting a business in order to focus on the funnies. Which of course means you’re starting with a bland set-up which inevitably devolves into “why should I care” territory, when people who should clearly know better get into situations that could have been resolved with simple communication.
Vince Vaughn is Dan Trunkman, a scrap metal salesman who’s started his own company out of a Dunkin Donuts and is trying to make the best of things while it seems like the world is falling out from under him. In order to keep his company solvent he has to go on an extended business trip to Germany in order to land a big sale. Dan will have to endure the culture shock of a European city (to put it lightly) and stay determined against odds that are more than against him if he’s going to land the sale that keeps his business afloat. Along for the ride are Tom Wilkinson as Tim, the older salesman and partner, and Dave Franco as Mike, who is also there.
There are times when this movie surprises you, if only because it spends so much time going in one direction that you don’t expect it when it suddenly veers another way, but those moments are few and far between. Vaughn walking in on his son in an embarrassing situation parleys that shame into the real effects of bullying surprisingly well. It’s only when you realize that these are the cursory moments where the film would rather take broad strikes at “weird German culture” instead. More than half the jokes of the film are at the expense of other cultures being wacky in one way or another. Between Vaughn having to strip in a unisex bathhouse to sell someone on his business strategy and getting caught in a gay nightclub with everyone else’s pants down, this movie makes no discernible attempt to grab anything but low hanging fruit (yeah, pun intended). This movie is not for the prudish to say the least.
There are plenty of good ideas in this movie but they are constantly bogged down by the juvenile sense of humor that seems to think the only way of getting laughs is to either point at someone’s crotch or laugh at their face. It takes all the energy out of what would have otherwise been a completely relatable journey. As I haven’t yet seen season two of True Detective, I don’t know whether or not he makes a better dramatic turn, but here all his trademark antics fall flat against a rote script and unfunny characters. There are glimmers here and there but beyond that there isn’t much to see in Unfinished Business.
Unfinished Business Premieres this Saturday, November 7th on HBO. Watch the Trailer below!