By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Unfinished Business is a comedy about a business trip that gets by, despite tripping over its own business.

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Vince Vaughn stars as salesman Dan Trunkman, a St. Louis husband and father of two who quits his corporate job following a pay cut (as dictated by his tough-cookie boss, oddly named Chuck Portnoy, played by Sienna Miller).

So Trunkman starts his own business, called Apex Select.

(2½ stars out of 4)

(2½ stars out of 4)

 

The two people who accept his offer to join him in a new venture are played by Tom Wilkinson and Dave Franco, the former facing forced retirement, the latter facing continued unemployment.

A year later, they travel to Portland, Maine, and then to Berlin, Germany, to close their company’s first big make-or-break-the-business deal.

But when they arrive at their destination, they discover that Dan’s ex-employer, Chuck, is competing for the same deal and has been going after the same clients (two of whom are played by James Marsden and Nick Frost).

Dan knows he’ll have to win back the clients, but the travel itinerary comes apart at the seams when the hopeful travelers find themselves sidetracked by everything from Oktoberfest to a gay fetish festival to a global economic summit.

Canadian director Ken Scott (Sticky Fingers, Starbuck), who previously collaborated with Vince Vaughn on the enjoyable comedy Delivery Man, works from an inconsistent screenplay by Steve Conrad, who wrote the script for 2013’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

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The script lacks narrative momentum, and evokes smiles rather than laughs, trotting out set pieces as if in a parade, and allowing the characters to behave more or less arbitrarily at times, going for the easy gag at the expense of the believability and integrity of the piece.

And neither Scott nor Conrad manages to explain just what kind of company our trio of protagonists have or exactly what they do. So we don’t take their predicament as seriously as we might have if we were clued in.

Still, Unfinished Business gives Vaughn a chance to give his trademark motormouth a rest and deliver a persuasive, likable, underplayed protagonist who shows us his sensitive side as he deals with his kids’ problems and helps us over the rough spots.

And Wilkinson and Franco do a bit more with their supporting characters than is there on the page.

This is a mixed bag, to be sure, and could have used a rewrite or two.  But it gets points for not being formulaic even if the cocktail of raunch and sentiment that it pours into our glass doesn’t taste quite right.

And it doesn’t bore us either.

So we’ll book a trip to 2½ stars out of 4 for Unfinished Business, a shaky, offbeat workplace lark that entertains even though it sports a truth-in-advertising title that perfectly describes its own incompleteness.

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