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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Unfinished Business movie review: business trip-up

Unfinished Business red light

Apparently made by snickering 12-year-olds who like naked boobies and have heard rumors about the phenomenon known as “the business trip.”
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): the trailer was embarrassing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Unfinished Business is the kind of movie in which a mentally retarded character — whose impairment is offered as a constant source of “hilarity” — is required to recite a line of dialogue such as “The penis touched my face” in a way that, this pathetic excuse for entertainment hopes, will make you laugh. Because the penis did indeed touch his face, and you are, it is presumed, consumed with “American prudishness,” hence you will snicker, just like, in another scene, the retarded character snickers when he sees naked boobies. In a fit of something that the movie deems clever, the naked-boobies scene directly addresses the matter of “American prudishness” in a way apparently intended to send it up, which utterly fails because the movie is itself consumed with “American prudishness.”

It’s like the movie was made by 12-year-olds who’ve just discovered naked boobies. And who have also heard about the phenomenon known as “business trips” and are attempting to imagine what they might be like.

Dan (Vince Vaughn: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, The Internship) is an independent scrap-metal salesman going up against his old corporate boss (Sienna Miller: American Sniper, Foxcatcher) in a deal that can make or break his tiny company. Why would Dan employ the unemployable Mike (Dave Franco: 22 Jump Street, Neighbors), the retarded character who shows no signs of the basic competence required to do his very technical job and is unable to follow simple directions? Why would an actor like Tom Wilkinson (Selma, Belle) accept a role as Dan’s only other employee, whose professional qualifications we know nothing about but whose personal quandary — he is married to a woman he does not love — demands he enact a scene with a maid in a hotel that merely watching it made me embarrassed for the actor? I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to shoot it.

Anyway, they all end up in Berlin chasing this deal, because that’s where a crappy movie needs to go in order to plausibly shoehorn in a gay-fetish festival, a unisex sauna, and an antiglobalization protest. If you’re wondering what any of that has to do with Dan’s domestic crisis back home, where his teenage son (Britton Sear) is being bullied, your guess is as good as mine.

This is one of those “Waiter, this soup is terrible, and the portions are too small” movies. I don’t know whom Unfinished Business thinks its audience is, but anyone hoping for the nonstop grossout the trailer promises will be disappointed, and anyone looking for a sentimental family drama will have no idea to look here (which is a sanity saver, in fact, because the sentimental family drama that is here is cringeworthy). One wonders whether the title of the movie doesn’t refer to the movie itself. Did director Ken Scott (Delivery Man, Starbuck) just halfheartedly shoot the first draft of the script (by Steve Conrad: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Pursuit of Happyness) and figure no one would notice? It’s the only plausible explanation. Unless it’s the 12-year-olds.


See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Unfinished Business for its representation of girls and women.


red light half a star

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Unfinished Business (2015)
US/Can release: Mar 06 2015
UK/Ire release: Mar 06 2015

MPAA: rated R for some strong risqué sexual content/graphic nudity, and for language and drug use
BBFC: rated 15 (strong language, sex, sex references, nudity, drug use)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • Danielm80

    Here’s my theory: Fox really wants to sell tickets to The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. They think twelve-year-olds will pay to see that movie and then sneak into Unfinished Business.

  • Sadly, this is plausible.

  • Giggles

    Just a quick point, the word “retarded” in this context is really offensive. I’m not sure if you’re trying to make a specific point with it (as you are with “boobies”) but it’s really a term that should have been dropped from popular vernacular a long time ago.

  • Danielm80

    Out of curiosity: What word would you use? I have a learning disability and sometimes refer to myself as “disabled,” but other people are very uncomfortable with that term.

  • Giggles

    It depends on the preference of the person I happen to be interacting with. Some are okay with the term “disabled,” in which case I use that term. I personally prefer to use “differently abled” or “alternatively abled.”

  • David

    When I was 15 I bought a ticket to American Outlaws, the Colin Farrell cowboy movie he made before he became really famous, and snuck into American Pie 2. To this day I’ve still never actually seen American Outlaws.

  • I seem to recall having this discussion before about another movie.

    This is not a realistic depiction of a person with intellectual disabilities. It’s “Isn’t it funny how dumb this guy is?” The movie is offensive.

  • Giggles

    Okay, so you ARE trying to make a point with the word “retarded.” Whether the movie is offensive or not isn’t in dispute.

  • I am attempting to represent the movie’s attitude toward the character.

  • Thera Pitts

    It’s hard to blame accomplished actors for taking lousy film roles. A whole lot can fall apart between page and screen. The script may have been good initially, or at the very least competent. And Wilkinson probably thought it would be fun to do a comedy. Too bad it was this one.

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