Well, I’ll say this—compared to the “comedies” I’ve seen recently, at least Unfinished Business isn’t offensively bad. It does, in fact, do a few things that I found surprisingly refreshing, given both the genre and overall lackluster-ness of the movie. For instance, The Wife (played by June Diane Raphael, whose talent is rarely matched by her opportunities) is not a wet blanket/nag, and the job that Vince Vaughn’s character, Dan, has started at mid-life is neither a reinvention of self nor an achievement of a dream. Comedy most often depends on heightened circumstances and exaggeration, but Vaughn goes the other way and grounds his premise in mundane, workaday life. It’s an interesting approach, if not a successful one.
Unfinished Business is not funny. It manages a couple decent “heh” moments, but it feels uncomfortably like Vaughn actually wanted to make a serious movie about a family man struggling to provide for his family after the economic collapse killed his American Dream, but then some studio dipsh*t saw Vince Vaughn’s name attached to the project and forced him to make a raunchy comedy instead. Strangely enough, the same dislocated feeling plagued Vaughn’s last movie, Delivery Man, which felt like it was supposed to be a serious reflection on fatherhood. Delivery Man and Unfinished Business share the same director, Ken Scott, and I can’t decide if that means I’m right and Vaughn and Scott desperately want to make a grown-up movie about grown-ups, or else they’re just hardcore phoning it in on their comedy jobs.
At the start of the movie, Dan quits his job after he’s told that despite excellent job performance, his salary is being reduced. The scene is meant to parody Jerry Maguire except instead of gaining an attractive assistant, Dan gets a guy being forced into retirement and a kid with no experience. In a sign of things to come, half-hearted delivery from Vaughn and apathetic direction by Scott sucks any energy from the scene and it falls flat. The entire movie is listless to the point of wondering—who even wanted to make this? It doesn’t seem like anyone actually wanted to make Unfinished Business.
But at least it isn’t offensive. Sure, it takes some easy shots at wacky European subculture, but there’s nothing actually mean-spirited in the movie. After my recent run of bad movies, it felt nice to just be bored by something, and not actively raging at it. I’ve gotten a bunch of “are you okay” messages from people wondering if I’m having a rage stroke, but I’m not, I’m just sitting through the garbage frontloaded at the beginning of the year. I need to get through the bad movie gauntlet and things will start levelling out. While Unfinished Business is not good and I do not recommend it, it also didn’t make me want to pour bleach in my eyes. We’re still in the rough patch—I am not excited about Insurgent at all—but perhaps the mediocrity and blandness of Unfinished Business is that first ray of light breaking at dawn. Good movies are coming, guys, we just have to hang on.