Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Dilemma

Directed by Ron Howard.
2011. Rated PG-13, 111 minutes.
Vince Vaughn
Kevin James
Winona Ryder
Jennifer Connelly
Channing Tatum
Queen Latifah
Chelcie Ross
Amy Morton
Eduardo N. Martinez

What should you do if you find out your best friend’s wife is cheating on him? That question is at the heart of The Dilemma. The conflicted guy is Ronny (Vaughn). He’s not really conflicted, though. He has a pretty brief period of doubt then decides he’s definitely going to tell his pal Nick (James) about his wife’s indiscretions. It’s a matter of timing. Not only are Ronny and Nick best friends they are also business partners in the midst of trying to secure the biggest deal of their lives. The stress of this has already caused Nick’s ulcer to flare up again. Understandably, Ronny fears that news like this would completely break his friend. When he confronts Geneva (Ryder), the guilty party, with his knowledge and plans she offers up some interesting justifications. What ensues is Nick following around both of them while ignoring Beth (Connelly), his own girlfriend. He’s also sort of torn about whether or not to pop the big question to her.

Vince Vaughn gives the same performance we’ve come to expect from him. You can decide for yourself it that’s a positive or a negative. He’s ably assisted by Ryder, Connelly and even a refreshingly subdued Kevin James. There are also interesting turns by Channing Tatum and Queen Latifah. Overall, it shapes up to be a nice little drama with a few funny moments sprinkled in. It’s not mind-blowing or anything, but a decent time-passer.

Expectations is what dooms The Dilemma. If you’ve paid any attention to the marketing campaign for the film and are even slightly familiar with the two male leads you should reasonably expect a screwball comedy. It is not anything of the sort. That people would be severely disappointed only makes sense. It’s like ordering a thick, juicy steak and being given a salad with a few strips of beef within. Sure, that can be good on most days, but today you had your heart set on that steak.

The question that arises is this: Is The Dilemma not really that funny because it’s not trying or are the jokes falling flat? I’ll own up to having trouble discerning. There are some jokes that definitely fail. There are plenty of other spots where I didn’t think they were going for laughs at all, but attempting to make Ronny (and occasionally the others) both a pathetic and sympathetic figure. I thought it worked. However, for audiences craving steak, this salad just won’t do.

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