Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Ron Howard
Stars: Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Winona Ryder, Channing Tatum, Jennifer Connelly, Queen Latifah.
The Dilemma is yet another of those laboured and unfunny comedies about male bonding in which grown ups act in irresponsible and immature fashion.
It stars Vince Vaughn and Kevin James as Ronny and Nick, who have been best friends since college. They now run a small mechanical engineering firm that is working on creating an environmentally friendly electric engine that still provides plenty of growl and grunt, like the classic cars of yesteryear. On the verge of a potentially lucrative deal with Dodge though Ronny’s life veers off the rails.
Although comfortable in their relationship, he is working out the best way to propose to his long time girl friend Beth (Jennifer Connelly). Then he sees Ronny’s wife Geneva (Winona Ryder) in a passionate embrace with a handsome younger man (played by Channing Tatum). He agonises over whether he should tell Nick about her infidelity. More misunderstandings and complications arise as Ronny considers his decision and he starts to lose control of this already messy situation.
The Dilemma is a supposed comedy that delivers some bitter truths about friendship, relationships, honesty, loyalty and integrity, trust and fidelity. However, there are very few laughs to be had here, and this is one of the most laboured comedies to hit our screens for some time. Writer Alan Loeb (The Switch, Wall Street 2, etc) takes a very thin premise and stretches it out interminably. There are very few laughs to be had here, and a lot of the dialogue is flat and cringe-worthy, although some in the audience will no doubt enjoy the film.
This is Ron Howard’s first foray into comedy for over a decade, and his direction here is unusually workmanlike and pedestrian. It seems as though he has not invested much energy into the film, unlike with his best films (A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man, Parenthood, etc), big budget affairs which he has been able to stamp with his own distinctive personality.
Howard also wastes the talents of his starry cast. All of the characters here are not particularly likeable and audiences will find it hard to sympathise or empathise with them.
Vaughn has an aggressive physical presence that sometimes serves the material well and his strong presence saves the movie from falling flat. He has made a living out of the comedy of embarrassing situations and awkward moments, and his best film shave tapped into this formula (The Company Of Men, Swingers, etc). His role here again plays into his loud and over the top physical style of comedy. The most awkward moment comes when he delivers a wildly inappropriate toast at the dinner to celebrate the fortieth wedding anniversary of his partner’s parents.
James isn’t all that funny, and he must one of the dullest screen comedians around, rather like Martin Lawrence. He hasn’t made a decent movie – the romantic comedy Hitch is the exception, but that is probably due more to the charismatic and winning presence of Will Smith than anything else. And even his moderately successful sitcom The King Of Queens relies heavily on a canned laugh track the cue the audience in when to wryly chuckle.
With a role in the critically acclaimed psychological thriller Black Swan, Ryder is enjoying something of a career resurgence and she brings some depth to her flawed character here. Jennifer Connelly also brings some style to her role as Ronny’s patient girl friend who wants more from him. Queen Latifah is wasted as an executive with the car company, while Tatum is also wasted in a sadly underdeveloped role.
What The Dilemma needed was more genuine laughs to balance out its more melodramatic moments. And the film is about 20 minutes too long; consequently the pace drags somewhat when it should zip along. Given the talent involved, The Dilemma should have been a great film. Unfortunately, it is a bit of a mess that will struggle to satisfy.