There’s a trailer for David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch (1991) that William S. Burroughs himself narrates, discussing — in his signature monotone — how “Hollywood, in its infinite wisdom,” decided to make his book into a film. I often hear Burroughs’ voice in my head saying those exact words when I watch something like Ken Scott’s Unfinished Business. Of course, the reasons for Burroughs’ lament is different for Naked Lunch, a nonlinear, anti-establishment novel about drug abuse, orgies and Mugwump jism, amongst other things. In the case of Unfinished Business, we’re really only talking about yet another Vince Vaughn comedy, one so uninspired I’d rather sit here and talk about a nearly quarter-century-old movie trailer than anything Scott’s movie threw up on film.
The movie is one of those family-style treatises on the dangers of being an overworked dad, with Vaughn playing Dan, our protagonist dad, but with poorly constructed sex jokes. Dan doesn’t spend nearly enough time with his bullied son (Britton Sear) and bullying daughter (Ella Anderson) because he’s desperately trying to get a handshake on the big business deal that will keep his company from shutting down. This might not be as big of a problem if his only employees weren’t a horned-up old codger (Tom Wilkinson) and a slow, incredibly grating weirdo (Dave Franco). But since they are, Dan and his crew are forced to fly from St. Louis to Portland to Berlin, all in an attempt to secure a deal that looks less and less likely of happening.
What this does is send our trio on a trip through a series of comedic set pieces, like the guys going to a German gay sex club and ending up in a room full of glory holes, or Dan wearing women’s workout clothes and being mocked for it. All the while, there’s 90 minutes of Vince Vaughn’s fast-talking wisecracks, like this is still a healthy conceit to build a comedy around. If only we’d known this is what we’d all get for liking Swingers 20 years ago.
There’s a tendency for the film to go for hokey sentimentalism — with all of Dan’s family issues (which are eventually dropped and forgotten about) and his symbolic pursuit of running a marathon, which he finally does in dress shoes and without breaking a sweat after spending the night on a park bench. It’s a movie searching for an emotional resonance it certainly doesn’t deserve, never wanting to put in the work for one. Instead, the great, uplifting, cathartic climax just kind of comes and goes before mercifully putting the movie out of its misery. That the movie eventual has an ending is about its only highlight. Rated R for some strong risqué sexual content/graphic nudity, language and drug use.