With luck, we will look back at "Unfinished Business" as the film that finally killed the studios' appetite for raunchy rip-offs of 2009's "The Hangover." That R-rated hit has been reworked for women as "Bridesmaids," for teens as "Project X" and for seniors as "Last Vegas," but "Unfinished Business" just reworks it, period.
Without "The Hangover" as a reference point, it would be difficult to say what this movie was trying to be. It opens with a tense scene in which Vince Vaughn, as salesman Dan Trunkman, quits his job to start his own company. Leaving with him are Tim McWinters (Tom Wilkinson), a newly fired 67-year-old, and young Mike Pancake (Dave Franco), a dim bulb who was only there for an interview. Together, they form the upstart company Apex. Their office is a nearby Dunkin' Donuts.
We're initially on board with these underdogs as they go up against Dan's old company to land a massive account (Nick Frost and James Marsden play good-suit/bad-suit). Our goodwill ends, though, as the trio's international business trip begins and we get to know them better. Dan is a workaholic unaware that his children (Britton Sear and Ella Anderson) are clinically depressed. Tim is a sex-starved coot who loathes his wife ("she looks like a vending machine"). Mike is actually a mentally impaired adult living in a group home -- which, as a joke, seems truly nasty. Right here, "Unfinished Business" loses our sympathy.
Comedies in this genre often tone themselves down for a PG-13 rating, but "Unfinished Business" does the opposite: It's a timid movie trying to be outrageous. Director Ken Scott (Vaughn's "Delivery Man") and writer Steve Conrad (Ben Stiller's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty") dutifully include scenes of sex and drugs, but their hearts aren't in it. Their judgment becomes increasingly questionable: A gay leather-bar, for instance, feels like yesterday's shocker, while the violent G-8 summit protests in Berlin are clearly the wrong place for slapstick.
The three leads have their charms, but Sienna Miller, as their archrival -- weirdly named Chuck Portnoy -- is terribly miscast, only because she seems so smart and capable that we begin rooting for her. Unless we want a sequel, let's hope "Unfinished Business" ends up deeply in the red.
PLOT Three businessmen take an important trip that goes awry.
CAST Vince Vaughn, Dave Franco, Tom Wilkinson
BOTTOM LINE Shallow, dimwitted and inept. Makes "The Hangover" look like "Glengarry Glen Ross."