The Dilemma (2011) Ron Howard

Production Budget: $70 million

Worldwide Gross: $69 million

Ronny (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Kevin James) are long time friends/business partners.  They are on the verge of selling a new product to Dodge but Nick is under serious pressure to get it done by a tight deadline.  On top of all that, Ronny finds Nick’s wife Geneva (Winona Ryder) is cheating on Nick.  Ronny is faced with the titular dilemma: do you tell Nick and potentially lose the friendship, or keep it a secret?

The problem is this “dilemma“, isn’t so much of a dilemma.  In fact it is so simple the movie has to throw so many extra hurdles to make it a dilemma that the effort involved in making it a dilemma, is almost a comedy.  Oh, you would tell your best friend?  Well, what if telling him would ruin a big business deal?  You would?  Well, what if it would kill him?  What if his wife was some evil bitch who would blackmail you?  What if aliens came down and offered a night with Megan Fox if you didn’t tell him?  Okay, that last part didn’t happen but you get the idea.  The point is this movie is trying to sell you on a drama/comedy dilemma which is supposed to be relatable to most people but ends up being ridiculous to the level of aliens coming down to make a deal.

Then we get the characters artificially inflating the movie by acting like moronic jack holes.  There are the usual Three’s Company misunderstandings in wacky comedies, but here they turn it up to 11.  And all this STILL wouldn’t be that bad if the movie didn’t go all bipolar and be a dramatic comedy.  Yeah, in the same movie where we get dick jokes and people falling out of trees, we get Vince Vaughn crying and BS sentimentality.  The tone is too jarring, and sometimes the jokes don’t even make that much sense.  Take for example when Ronny is asking around for what he should do about the dilemma.  He calls his sister and presents it as a hypothetical “friend“ story to which she interprets as her husband cheating on her.  But it doesn’t make any sense because Ronny’s sister doesn’t know or have any interaction with Nick.  Why doesn’t he just present the situation as him finding Nick’s wife cheating on him?

Then there are plot threads that really go nowhere.  There are an easy twenty minutes that could be cut involving them selling this fake motor to Dodge and a bizarre supporting role by Queen Latifa.  Yeah, I know the looming business deal is part of why Ronny is hesitant to tell Nick but we don’t need this explained over twenty minutes.  This movie is 1 hour and 51 minutes and it feels like it is well over two hours.

The main characters aren’t all that compelling either.  Vince Vaughn’s character is a hot head lying A-hole who treats his fiance as an afterthought.  And even though the core of the movie is whether to tell Nick this bad news or not, the movie glosses over the fact Nick is also cheating on his wife.  HELLO!  I mean, it doesn’t validate the things Geneva does but it makes Nick just as big a prick.

Vince Vaughn tries to be charming but even he seems tired of doing the ole Vince Vaughn shtick.  Kevin James is wasted as he is the person the other characters are tap dancing around.  Because of that James never gets a chance to have any good comedy bits.  Jennifer Connolly is Madam Not Appearing in This Film.  Queen Latifa is in a completely different movie.  Channing Tatum gets a few chuckles out of his sensitive thug role.  Winona Ryder is the only one coming out of this movie looking good though.  She gives this movie a far better performance than it deserves.

I didn’t go into this looking to slam Ron Howard.  I actually really like some of the movies he does.  I wasn’t expecting The Dilemma to break the mold or anything, but I was expecting Howard to know tone and storytelling enough to make a good comedy.  You see glimpses here and there of the comedy he wanted to make.  Of the times Vaughn and James actually have scenes to themselves, they actually do have a good chemistry.  There are also good moments from Ryder and Tatum when they play up their roles.  I think if Howard made a true screwball movie about this bromance between Vaughn and James and about how evil Ryder was trying to break them up it would have done a lot better.  Instead we introduce this bad dramatic tone which kills the work Vaughn and James are trying to do.  What you are left with is a badly written snoozefest which was dumped out in January.

I’ll offer some free advice for Ron Howard though to prevent another bomb.  Don’t spend $70 million dollars on a movie that should cost about $5 million to actually make.

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