Ron Howard’s The Dilemma fails to earn any sympathy…or laughs

The Dilemma – 2011

Directed by Ron Howard

Starring, Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly, Winona Rider, Queen Latifah, Channing Tatum

Written by Allen Loeb

The first thoughts that run through my head as I look at Kevin James’ character, Nick, explain to his friend and business partner, Ronny, played by Vince Vaughan, why their early success might not be a success after all, I couldn’t help but wonder how he ever ended up with Winona Rider’s Geneva after all?  He would never have crossed the room in the first place, because, you know, it might never work.  And who, tell me, who would want to be around this guy in any sort of romantic capacity, much less a business capacity.  He has some sort of “genius” which allows a car to act like a hybrid, while looking and sounding like a classic car.  This must be his only talent.  Every other aspect of this guy’s existence is fraught with an annoying gestures and self-doubt.  Very soon, we get to the point where I would like to be the one to break him the bad news indicated in the movie’s title.

His friend, Ronny is Vince Vaughan playing against type.  He starts out all cockiness and swagger, but he is too soon undone by the what he sees early in the film.  That sight, if you had seen any of the trailers, is his wife, Geneva cheating on him with a meat head (Channing Tatum, playing something besides an action figure for once).  Ronny bumbles around, looking for help in ascertaining what to do with the knowledge.  After a few painfully awkward (read: forced) scenes, he actually does a decent job of confronting his friend’s wife at a hockey game.  This does not get the intended result, and so, back to the awkward scenes with Nick giving Ronny romantic “advice” about his long-term romance with his girlfriend, Beth (a wasted Connelly).  Insert hi-jinks, lame and forced, rinse, repeat.

This movie was a labor to get through.  Not one moment felt like a valid excuse for an evening out, much less an evening in.  The only scenes that carry any heat or comic potential are those between Vaughan and Rider.   Nothing else comes remotely close to essential, worthwhile or emblematic of the talent involved.

I could go down a list, but I want to move on with my life.  Let’s just say the script was obvious, painful and devoid of any sort of comic sensibility.  It tries to lilt into some sort of drama towards the end, but it feels more like a skid.

The acting was decent for very few moments, putrid at most others.  None of these things would happen to people, unless they went completely out of their way to suspend disbelief.  Particularly horrid is the Anniversary speech.  On a side note, some day, there’s going to be a realization that all Kevin James’ movies have the same problem.

As for Ron Howard, I haven’t liked much of what he’s done since Apollo 13.  Sure, he’s been nominated and even won some awards, but the movies have  been above average historical renditions at best (Frost/Nixon, Cinderella Man) fanciful, recreated illusions that were calculated  (the extremely overrated A Beautiful Mind) and diluted crap at worst (Dan Brown’s “controversial” but horribly written DaVinci books).  I used to look forward to his films.

“You’re family and friends are here because they love you, Ronny.  And they can’t stand to see you destroy yourself any more,” is the surprise that we are treated to, as the tables are turned, supposedly, near the end.  This should have been said to anyone deciding to watch this movie, ahead of time.

(1/2*)

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