REVIEW: The Dilemma

12 01 2011

The whole premise of deciding whether or not to tell a friend that their wife is cheating on them sounds like something that would make a good episode of “Full House” or “Everybody Loves Raymond.”  The whole thought process is something perfectly suited to sustain a 22-minute sitcom episode.  However, “The Dilemma” takes that setup and stretches it out to nearly two hours, and all it does is prolong the pain.

Ronny (Vince Vaughn) catches Geneva (Winona Ryder) two-timing her husband and his best friend Nick (Kevin James).  Unsure of whether to meddle or not, he weighs his options carefully but finds physical pain instead of answers and decisions.  The choice is harder to make since the two buddies are business partners under a great deal of stress to deliver big and Ronny is also wrestling with proposing to his girlfiend Beth (Jennifer Connelly).

The longer he delays, the harder it gets to make the decision.  It ultimately results in all four parties revealing and uncovering long-held secrets, which are of course nothing surprising or profound to viewers.  For this reason, “The Dilemma” is quite a bit darker and more solemn than most comedies hitting theaters nowadays.  Perhaps the strange tone is what attracted Ron Howard to direct the film, an Academy Award winner with a curious fascination at having a versatile resumé.  He’s much better at directing such unremarkable and controlled period pieces, where he’s actually capable of making a decent connection with the audience, than he is at directing comedy.

Both Vaughn and James bring a game face to the movie, but their physical and vocal humor is ultimately stifled by an artificial layer of dramatic importance and a poor script.  They get into it, sure, yet they are undermined by either poor dialogue or ridiculous situations.  It’s like these two dynamite comedic forces are trapped in sitcom reruns and aren’t sure whether to escape or adjust their acting style.  The duo desperately needs to return to the R-rated comedy genre which is perfectly able to harness their energy and turn it into side-splitting laughter.  (And, for that matter, Channing Tatum needs to leave acting altogether and just go back to modeling.)

It’s pretty sad for any movie when its legacy will ultimately be not what’s on film, but the fuss over an unsavory epithet for homosexuals in the trailer will likely be the only thing worth remembering about the movie in the years to come.  Ron Howard and Universal gave us a conversation topic in October 2010, yet in January 2011, they didn’t follow up by delivering a quality movie.  By the time you escape from the tepid grasp of “The Dilemma,” you’ll feel as if you’ve watched a highlight reel of failed jokes and cringe-worthy moments.  C-

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10 responses

12 01 2011
Fitz

This had lazy comedy written all over it. Actually any film with Kevin James would confirm that.

12 01 2011
5plitreel

Is this the one with the ‘gay-controversy’ seems idiotic. WTF happened to Vince Vaughn, wasn’t he funny at some point?

12 01 2011
Marshall

I have never really been a HUGE fan. I liked “Wedding Crashers” but didn’t love it, and I’d say that’s probably his finest moment.

12 01 2011
Steven Flores

Excellent review though I’m not a fan of Ron Howard at all. Though I do like some of his other films like “Splash”, “Gung Ho”, “Cocoon”, “Apollo 13”, and more recently, “The Missing”.

I’m just not interested in this. Plus, I just don’t want to see anything with Channing Tatum. I can’t stand that guy.

12 01 2011
Marshall

Ooh, can’t believe I forgot to write about him! I think I’m going to have to add a line in there somewhere about how dreadful he was.

13 01 2011
Fitz

It makes the fact that GQ called him the next Burt Lancaster all the more laughable.

13 01 2011
Marshall

Not that I ever really give a second thought to what GQ says, but when on earth did they write that? I bet they are eating those words…

12 01 2011
CS

I think I will wait for this to hit DVD. Besides Hitch, Kevin James has not proven himself to be a true leading man on the big screen. I also have I hard time believing he could pull a woman looking like Winona Ryder. That type of casting works in sitcoms but not always in film.

12 01 2011
Marshall

There was a dancing scene at the beginning where, for a brief second, I thought he could regain the magic he had in “Hitch.”
..
False hope.

14 01 2011
CMrok93

Usually when directors step out of their comfort zone, it is either amazing, or a total mis-fire. This for Ron Howard, just so happens to be a mis-fire as it seems.

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