Review: The Dilemma

Vince Vaughn finds himself in a pickle when he catches the wife (Winona Ryder) of his best friend and co-worker (Kevin James) in a compromising position with a moronic douchebag named Zip (Channing Tatum, hard-working but unfunny). Does he tell his buddy what’s going on even though James is already obsessing and worrying about their big business presentation? Apparently no, he doesn’t, at least not at first. Meanwhile, Vaughn (whose character is also a recovering gambling addict) is contemplating the rest of his life with his own girlfriend, played by Jennifer Connelly. Chelcie Ross plays the major car manufacturer head honcho the boys are trying to impress, Rance Howard is Connelly’s dad (actually he’s Ron Howard’s dad, but anyway...), and Queen Latifah plays a dirty-minded auto executive who likes the boys’ unorthodox viewpoint and methods.

How is it that a solid filmmaker like Ron Howard (“Apollo 13”, “Ransom”, “A Beautiful Mind”, “Cinderella Man”) can direct a damn masterpiece of the ‘dramedy’ genre like “Parenthood”, and fall so completely flat with this latest one? Writer Allan Loeb might be a large chunk of the answer to why this 2010 flick is such a dud on both dramatic and comedic fronts. Loeb also wrote “The Switch” from the same year, another lame comedy-drama venture that overdosed on stupid contrivances, a clunky structure, and uneven casting (Even Loeb’s best screenplay to date, “Things We Lost in the Fire” was contrived).

I just didn’t buy this plot at all, and in fact, the title is rather stupid. The situation Vince Vaughn finds himself in is really only a dilemma because of all the contrivances and implausibilities that Loeb writes in. Yes you do need to tell your best friend that his girl is cheating on him right away. It doesn’t matter if said friend is overworked and continually cuts you off, you must insist that he hears you out. Why doesn’t Vaughn insist? Because the script doesn’t want him to, or else there’d be no movie. Great, I’m fine with this film ceasing to exist, believe me because overly contrived misunderstandings in movies are almost never enjoyable to see play out. There really is no dilemma in this film. Who the hell wants to spend 100 minutes watching Vince Vaughn kvetch and moan about a situation that is really only a dilemma because he’s choosing not to do the right thing or else there’d otherwise be no movie? Not me. **** SPOILER WARNING **** By the time he finally does man up and spill the beans, it’s at the least plausible and least appropriate time imaginable. Why? Because the script wants it that way. ‘Coz, see it’s so wacky and funny...except it’s not. Meanwhile, why doesn’t Vaughn tell his spouse Connelly what’s going on? ‘Coz the screenplay tells him not to. And don’t even get me started on the scene where Vaughn’s sister mistakenly thinks Vaughn has caught her husband cheating on her and Vaughn barely tries to correct her. That’s just pathetic, really pathetic writing and Vaughn ends up looking more deceitful and destructive than Ryder, which is ridiculous. I also have massive issues with the Winona Ryder character. If Vaughn has known this chick since college, and given she turns out to be such a selfish, evil cow, why would Vaughn still be friends with her, let alone allow his buddy to become involved with her? I mean, has she just kept this objectionable side all to herself for so many years? Doubtful. Obviously Loeb doesn’t care about making sense, but I’m shocked that Howard would agree to film such a clichéd, contrived, and implausible screenplay. **** END SPOILER ****

And what the hell is going on with Queen Latifah inserting a bunch of lame double entendres every half hour or so? It’s so jarring and she’s so rarely used in the film that you’d swear she came in from another film entirely. Aside from one brilliantly hilarious dinner toast by Vaughn (the sole reason for this film not being bottom-of-the-barrel, the film is alarmingly unfunny, to be perfectly honest and boring beyond belief. Speaking of unfunny, Kevin James is yet another funny, likeable fat guy comedian in the Jackie Gleason meets John Candy mould...except he’s not funny, not all that likeable, and frankly isn’t very interesting here anyway. And we all know the role was surely written with Jon Favreau in mind, right?

Aside from the aforementioned toasting scene, the film isn’t terribly enjoyable, but I will say that it’s always nice to see Jennifer Connelly on screen, and she’s good with what she’s been given to work with. I feel sorry for her having to act out scenes where she thinks Vaughn is gambling again simply ‘coz the screenplay doesn’t want Vaughn to act like a real human being and tell her the truth. Meanwhile, the bitchy performance given by Winona Ryder is far from her biggest crime. Kidding aside, I’m not a huge fan, but I’m glad to see her back seemingly on track, to be honest.

But overall this film fails to entertain simply because the central premise and character behaviour are so obviously dictated by the needs of a crap writer that I could never get into it.

Rating: C


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