How to Not Succeed In Business Without Really Trying
That lack of competence is pretty blatant in even the most basic elements of this feature, namely in how little story there is. Primarily, the movie centers on Dan (Vince Vaughn), Timothy (Tom Wilkinson) and Mike (Dave Franco), three dudes who have started up their own company and need to go confirm a big business deal, but soon find competition from Dan's former boss, Chuck (Sienna Miller). It's weird then how little the movie focuses on that business deal, with party shenanigans and road trip antics taking up more of the screentime.
That scattered approach is problematic on it's own merits, but it becomes even more troublesome considering that the storyline and character arcs that Unfinished Business chooses to center itself range from banal to flat out abysmal in execution. In between gags that sometimes come sprinkled with sexism or homophobia, the film also spends a bizarre amount of time attempting to set up pathos, mainly around Dan's children. These scenes, which primarily deal with bullying that Dan's son is receiving, play more like an after-school special, and don't gel with the rest of the film at all.
Attempts at comedy play in a similarly lackluster fashion, with many gags feeling more perfunctory than hilarious. Take a repeated (and I do mean repeated, they beat this joke like a dead horse) joke involving a German GPS for instance; Mike buys it for Dan so the three guys can navigate around Germany, not realizing the device only speaks German. The humor is supposed to be derived from Dan's frustration over the uselessness of the item since it can't speak English, but GPS's also have the ability to show you where you're going on a visual level, with arrows pointing you in the direction you need to travel. Thus, the entire point behind the joke is moot and nonsensical, and it lands with a thud. For some reason, this clunker of a gag is, like I said before, repeated several times, much to my agony.
The cast is also absent of anything notable in quality despite the presence of such great actors like James Marsden (filling in the role of douchey antagonist that he's been pigeonholed into in recent years) and Nick Frost. The lone women in the main cast, Sienna Miller, had a surprisingly small role in the film considering she's playing Dan's business rival. In fact, I think she only popped up two more times after she's introduced as a foe for Dan in this particular business case, another bamboozling story decision that is only further evidence of the kind of lamentable quality constantly on display in Unfinished Business.