Published Jan 13, 2011Ron Howard can make a comedy. Remember Night Shift? It had its moments. When the director decided to follow his Da Vinci Code/Frost/Nixon sandwich with a buddy comedy, it wasn't that much of a surprise. But Howard wasn't interested in making a straight-ahead pals and hi-jinks flick; he needed a bit of heart. (This is the same guy that made Cinderella Man, after all.) And it's too bad.
The Dilemma follows Ronny and Nick (Vince Vaughn and Kevin James), two boutique automobile designers and best friends on the verge of the biggest deal of their careers. To complicate things, Ronny is about to propose to his girlfriend, Beth (Howard's A Beautiful Mind muse, Jennifer Connelly), when he discovers that Nick's wife (Winona Ryder) is having an affair. Should he tell his friend? And that's the… wait for it… dilemma.
Writer Allan Loeb's (the tellingly bloated Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps) script takes this simple conceit and crowds it with various tangential threads, resulting in an incongruent film that squanders decent talent while still delivering a handful of laughs.
Aesthetically, the Vaughn/James pairing has inherent goofiness, à la Abbott and Costello, which is largely effective. Nevertheless, most of the guffaws come from Vaughn's tried and tested motor mouth shtick (look for a particularly hilarious toast scene). It's when the film devolves into slapstick, via a blowtorch/baseball bat fight between Vaughn and a snivelling Channing Tatum, that it really goes off the rails. It doesn't help that Tatum is in a far wackier movie than everyone else.
Conversely, Howard wastes a few key assets, notably Connelly and, in turn, her surprisingly strong chemistry with Vaughn. Also, Queen Latifah turns up as an extraneous consultant whose sex-infused pep talks do little to provide laughter or advance the plot.
Regardless of the missteps, Vaughn manages to provide a number of bright spots, delivering his best starring turn in more than a decade (admittedly, that's not saying that much). Also, Howard and cinematographer Salvatore Totino have created a pretty film with a warmly dark palette. So, that's something. (Universal)