Films where one line of dialogue can solve every narrative problem are always an uphill climb. We, the audience, know the solution early on, but we’re stuck watching tongue-tied actors pratfall their way through a script that depends upon that key line of dialogue to not be spoken. Otherwise we don’t have a movie. The Dilemma, a highly unpleasant drama masquerading as a buddy comedy, stretches patience, common sense, and anyone’s ability to stomach Vince Vaughn rambling his way through an eternally long two hours.
Best buddies Ronny (Vaughn) and Nick (James) are partners at an auto design firm. They’re looking to sell a groundbreaking, fuel-efficient engine to Dodge that saves on gas, but doesn’t lose the signature Dodge sound. Nick is married to Geneva (Ryder) and Ronny is in a serious relationship with Beth (Connelly). While planning his marriage proposal to Beth, Ronny inadvertently sees Geneva lip-locking with another man, Zip (Channing Tatum). Does Ronny tell Nick about what he saw? How does he do it? Is it even in his place to do so? Will the screenplay make this as complicated as possible?
Easily the worst film Ron Howard has ever directed, The Dilemma is a joyless experience filled with flat jokes, moronic decisions by all, and the bizarre assumption that Vince Vaughn’s ramblin’ man routine can sustain for anything near a feature-length film. Allan Loeb’s screenplay must have been Aaron Sorkin-long, but by all accounts the plan was to have Vaughn improvise each scene until it fell flat, then move on. The lone snicker to be found comes in the final moments, when Ronny recites Kurt Russell’s speech from Miracle as Nick tries to win a trip at a hockey game.
The cast sure looks good on paper, but the only one to escape unscathed is Jennifer Connelly as the sensible and somewhat grounded-in-reality Beth. Unless Vince Vaughn and Kevin James can do absolutely no wrong in your eyes, they will wear you out. Winona Ryder is passable, but never seems evil enough. It’s much easier to buy that she actually loves Nick, rather than she’s constantly plotting rendezvous behind his back. Queen Latifah and Channing Tatum should be firing their agents any minute now.
The Dilemma is the kind of film that everyone involved will be pretending didn’t happen in due time. It’s never easy to take a subject like infidelity, try and throw a comedic angle on it, and make it a great time at the movies. The Dilemma missteps early and often, finally degenerating into a cringe-worthy drama and supposed lesson on “guy code.” Uninvolving and stretching the limits of just about everything, this is yet another entry in the long line of must-miss January leftovers.
Studio: Universal Pictures
Length: 118 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic elements involving sexual content.
Theatrical Release: January 14, 2011
Directed by: Ron Howard
Written by: Allan Loeb
Cast: Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly, Winona Ryder, Channing Tatum