The Dilemma

7 Feb

Title: The Dilemma
Ron Howard
Allan Loeb
Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Winona Ryder, Jennifer Connelly, Channing Tatum, Queen Latifah
MPAA Rating:
PG-13, mature thematic elements involving sexual content
111 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
Rotten Tomatoes:

Man, oh man, I really really wanted to like The Dilemma. Ron Howard has directed some seriously good comedies through the years, Splash, Parenthood, The Paper and even EDtv come to mind. And yet, for the past decade the guy hasn’t been dedicating himself to making us laugh, his last comedic film being How the Grinch Stole Christmas, instead he has spent his time focusing on more dramatic fare like A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man or Frost/Nixon, to amazing results, yes, but I really was looking forward to his next comedic outing.

And even though the premise for this one seemed pretty amusing, and the cast is full of pretty neat people, the end result was quite disappointing, to be honest. It has Kevin James and Vince Vaughn playing two best friends who have gone through a lot together, and are now partners at an auto design company, and they’re on the verge of presenting a project that could catapult their business.

Mr. Vaughn’s character, Ronny, is the eternal bachelor type who here has a girlfriend, Beth, who’s played by Jennifer Connelly, an actress who always looks amazing. While Mr. James’ character, Nick, is actually happily married with a woman named Geneva, played by Winona Ryder who I also love seeing in anything.The dilemma the title refers to, however, comes when Ronny sees Geneva going out with another man. And instead of telling Nick everything straight ahead, Ronny decides to investigate and see what he can find out, which of course will ensue into some amusing situations which coincide with the biggest moment of their careers.

Now, read the above and tell me it doesn’t sound like prime comic material for such a talented director like Mr. Howard and such an amazing group of actors like the ones I just named. But yet once all the pieces are put together it all falls apart, I didn’t hate it, in fact I actually quite liked the fact that it was a mainstream comedy that wasn’t afraid of delving into some rather dark territory at times, but it just should have been way better.

I don’t know what went wrong here, Mr. Howard didn’t seem at ease here, not a great fit for him apparently, even though I thought it would really be. Mr. Vaughn had his moments, but, in a film that should have been a great vehicle for him, wasn’t as amazing as he potentially could have been. Kevin James, as much as I love him from his time on The King of Queens, felt flat. The ladies, though, I thought were pretty good, Ms. Connelly was her reliable lovely self, and Ms. Ryder was the best piece of the ensemble, the only one that had some energy in her stride. Queen Latifah and Channing Tatum, the other two supporting players, do no harm, but do no good either.

And that’s, I guess, the main beef I had with The Dilemma, that it all felt too bland to me. Though, to be fair, I did found it was much better than its trailer suggested. It was a sort of melodramatic film about friendship and not a macho gag-fest like the trailers (and its infamous controversy about homosexual remarks) made it out to be. But overall the jokes were neither here nor there, the performances were okay at best, and I hated that because I loved all the players involved here. The main problem the film had was the same one Ronny had in it, telling a guy something quite serious while still having him be okay not to make the business fall apart (or in the case of the movie, while still being funny).

At times this succeeded, at times this film, in all its commercial appeal and lovable actors, achieved the sort of feel which shows us the pain and suffering that goes behind such a harsh situation. But for the most part it falls flat on itself, with slapstick comedy that doesn’t work even in the hands of such talented actors, and characters that do nothing unique to really elevate it.

I’m not sure I’ll recommend The Dilemma to people, I’ll probably grade it somewhere high on the C-range, but I’m not sure what my arguments for not recommending it will really be, because I can’t seem to be able to fingerpoint what went wrong here. Or maybe I will recommend it, and say the recommendation is based solely on the fact that Winona Ryder is pretty awesome here. Not to mention that when Ron Howard wants to do another comedy, I’ll still be there, first in line, waiting to see it. And for the meantime I’ll be drooling over his upcoming adaptation of The Dark Tower.

Grade: C+


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