On DVD: The Dilemma

There was a day when Vince Vaughn used to do comedies. That day was only five years ago, but it seems like ages since a trademark Vaughn tirade caught laughs like a fishing net. His talents are squeezed into “The Dilemma,” a drama that masquerades as a comedy using the guise of Vaughn and comedian Kevin James. The film never recovers from this marketing trickery, namely because it still tries to punch in the humor anyway.

There are certainly worse subjects to center a comedy around than infidelity, but just because that’s not domestic abuse or something that can be prosecuted by law doesn’t make “The Dilemma” any more entertaining. Vaughn’s Ronny does find himself in some humorous predicaments, but it always comes back to his choice on whether to tell his friend Nick that his wife (Winona Ryder) is cheating on him.

The contradiction in tone here has no remedy. Screenwriter Allan Loeb seems to have a grasp on drama, but the humor never works the way it ought to in a film with Vaughn and James that so clearly touts itself as capable of delivering laughs. Channing Tatum shockingly delivers the funnier moments as an insecure tattooed bachelor named Zip, the one sleeping with Ryder’s character, Geneva.

Ron Howard, in an odd film given his resume, doesn’t seem to embrace the true tone of the script either. He throws in some scenes depicting the lies that Ronny tells to his girlfriend Beth (Jennifer Connelly) to cover up the information he learned. They intend to add a visual humor element but feel completely out of place in mainstream comedy. In fact, one could argue that “The Dilemma” might have been more effective envisioned as an independent film or something in that style. Indies have a way of mixing drama and humor and “The Dilemma” could use a lesson or five in making that hybrid work.

Vaughn’s experience in some independent films and non-traditional comedies actually makes him a good fit for Ronny, someone who we must sympathize with in order to stand watching this movie, which in fact does stay watchable. It’s only when the film requires him to be mainstream comedy funny that he falls flat as protagonist.

Despite wrapping you up in how the events will unfold, “The Dilemma” suggests nothing of substance to its audience. It’s like eating bland candy or drinking flavored water: sure, you can do keep ingesting it, but you know you’re not getting anything from it other than empty artificial flavoring. Tolerable filmmaking doesn’t imply a satisfactory film experience. As much as “The Dilemma” certainly speaks some truth about relationships, it does so most matter-of-factly and in constant violation of expectations in terms of the level of humor.

2/5 Stars

The Dilemma
Directed by Ron Howard
Written by Allan Loeb
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Winona Ryder, Jennifer Connelly


You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment