In the midst of a European business trip, Dan Truckman (Vince Vaughn) Timothy McWinters (Tom Wilkinson) and Mike Pancake (David Franco) somehow end up in a pasture. Jessica Miglio/Twentieth Century Fox hide caption
itoggle caption Jessica Miglio/Twentieth Century Fox
It’s unclear what commerce is left undone in Unfinished Business, a fumbling mix of sentimental family fable and gross-out sex comedy. Maybe the movie was originally titled Unfunny Business, but someone decided that would be bad for, well, business.
The would-be hilarity begins with a Jerry Maguire moment: Dan (Vince Vaughn) quits his industrial salesman job in a pay dispute and asks others to join him in starting a new firm. Instead of perky Renee Zellwegger, he gets tired Tim (Tom Wilkinson), who was just fired for being too old, and clueless Mike (Dave Franco), who was in the building to apply for a job he didn’t get.
The slow-witted Mike is so mentally challenged that he went to “special school” and lives in a group home. This is one of several plot points that scripter Steve Conrad (The Pursuit of Happyness) fails to make either tasteful or humorous.
A year later, the trio heads from Missouri to Maine to sign the deal that will make theirs a viable company. (They deal in the metal manufacturing residue called “swarf,” a substance probably chosen for comic potential that remains dormant.) It turns out that the negotiations are not complete. So the guys hop a plane to Berlin, land of unisex steam baths, gay discos designed for anonymous sex and — scariest of all — conceptual art.
The G8 Summit is in town, so protesters and cops clash in the streets. Oktoberfest and a big marathon are also scheduled, which means the hotels are full. Tim and Mike end up at a youth hostel, while Dan beds down in a museum display, labeled “American Businessman.”
Before they can make their pitch, the guys must connect with various potential allies. None of them, of course, is at the office. They’re in the steamroom, or the toilet of a club out of Taxi Zum Klo, the once-notorious 1980 cinematic tour of Berlin’s gay subculture.
Meanwhile, back at home, Dan’s kids are struggling. His wife (June Diane Raphael) insists that Dan come up with cash he doesn’t have to send their bullied son to private school. All of this is weirdly earnest in a movie that depends heavily on cringe-till-you-giggle moments that involve breasts, penises and baroque sexual positions. Plus, of course, binge drinking, bong hits and watching the old guy dance goofily after he takes Ecstasy.
Amid all the bids for the frat-boy audience, Unfinished Business endeavors to be warm and wise. In a moment that the filmmakers must have thought would be touching, Dan dons eye shadow to video-chat with his son about the kid’s attempt to become a goth.
That would seem to indicate that Dan is secure in his masculinity, but the movie sure isn’t. The threesome’s female competitor (Sienna Miller) is so unfemininely ruthless in the filmmakers’ eyes that she’s named Chuck. And the disco bathroom scene offers a musty mixture of disgust and awe at gay male sexuality.
Director Ken Scott previously worked with Vaughn on Delivery Man, another daddy parable. So it’s hardly surprising when the movie’s final words come from Dan’s young daughter — or that they flatter her father. Dan may not be a great businessman or father, but in vanity vehicles like this, the star always knows best.
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