Starring: Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Winona Ryder, Jennifer Connelly, Channing Tatum
Director: Ron Howard
Writer: Allan Loeb
Cinematography: Salvatore Totino
Original Score: Lorne Balfe, Hans Zimmer
Running Time: 118 Mins.
Comedy-dramas are an iffy hybrid, very few directors (let alone actors) are able to carry of both of these genres suitably marrying them together, in fact the difficulty in actually succeeding in creating one that works is often rewarded with awards glory (see Little Miss Sunshine, Sideways, The Kids Are Alright) and quite rightly so as it can be one of the most touching and rewarding film experiences. Alas all too often the balls of the juggling act are well and truly dropped by many an un-seasoned director, so given the pedigree of Ron Howard (returning to the genre for the first time since 1999 with EDTV) you would expect something really rather good, sadly The Dilemma has become quite literally a film of two halves and one that is never able to marry the two in a convincing way.
So The Dilemma careers from Vince Vaughn/Kevin James knock about comedy to attempts at relationship drama that over-eggs the theme of trust and honesty, the upside is that this isn’t in the realms that some of Vaughn’s recent efforts have slumped to, Couples Retreat and Four Christmases to name but two, but there is little to make it stand out in the crowd amongst comedies, or dramas for that matter. Fans of Vaughn aren’t short-changed however, he is (like most comics) an acquired taste and the chances are if you weren’t a fan before The Dilemma it will do little to convert you but he can do his “Vince Vaughn” flustered turn in his sleep and does so here with aplomb attempting to act a little as well, though he and Connelly cannot convince as a couple at least the bromance element hits home as he spars with Kevin James.
While I’m on the subject of James it’s nice to see he is able to emote and do more than a silly dance, even though he still seems incapable of escaping the affable loser role that has become his staple in film since a star turn in Hitch. The Dilemma in question sees James wife (Ryder) cheating on him with a tattooed druggie (Tatum), alas Vaughn witnesses said affair by chance and is faced with the titular problem, to tell his best-mate and break his heart or not? to complicate matters we discover James isn’t quite so innocent himself, in fact nobody is and in both couples relationships there are attempts to add a little edge by having some rather unsavoury issued touched on, massage parlours, gambling problems etc. these add little to the story as a whole but do pep proceedings up a little.
The biggest revelation is Tatum, who’d have thought the often leaden and sombre performer was capable of comedy, in his scenes with Vaughn there is great sparring (both physical and verbal) but they seem to have slipped in from yet another film, a better comedy perhaps? Add to this an obscure framing plot-line that sees Vaughn and James trying to push a new car engine to Dodge and the totally out-of-kilter appearance by Queen Latifah (“lady-wood”…say no more!) who seems to have come in from yet another comedy in the Tyler Perry mould and you have the ingredients for a rather uneven yet oddly admirable film in terms of its intention.
Those seeking a dose of Vaughn inspired comedy will likely be happy, anyone expecting a well crafted comedy-drama will be baffled as The Dilemma veers between genres, and seemingly even different films, sporadically and unevenly making for an interesting but not particularly good watch, such a shame from as seasoned a director as Ron Howard.