It has been a few years since I’ve really enjoyed a movie that Vince Vaughn has starred in. The last one that I enjoyed thoroughly was WEDDING CRASHERS and since then of all the ones I’ve seen have been subpar romantic comedies and the completely abysmal FRED CLAUS. While I can’t say that THE DILEMMA is a return to the Vince Vaughn comedy that I’ve come to love it’s definitely quite the mixture of generic relationship comedy and some pretty dark comedy as well.
Ronny Valentine (Vince Vaughn) and Nick Brannen (Kevin James) are on the verge of a huge deal with the car manufacturer, Dodge, to create an engine that fuses the power of earlier muscle cars with the sophistication of today’s luxury cars. The process already has its hiccups even before Ronny, while scoping an area to propose to his girlfriend, stumbles upon Nick’s wife Geneva (Winona Ryder) having an affair with a young tattooed guy named Zip (Channing Tatum). From there Ronny struggles with the decision of if he should tell his best friend the news and potentially ruin their chance to make some big bucks or keep it from him until the deal is done. Ronny switches back and forth on the idea until things just start spiraling out of control.
From the outset of the film it looks and feels like another lackluster romantic comedy with a lot of very stale jokes and cheesy romantic dialogue. It’s not until Vaughn’s character stumbles on the affair that things start picking up a bit. From that point we have a mixture of hit and miss comedy with a large amount of extremely awkward moments stemming from an anniversary toast involving honesty up to an intervention to confront some demons from one character’s past. In some ways the film tries to juggle a lot of different elements of drama that are real problems people deal with everyday, but because within the confines of an hour and fifty minute movie there isn’t a sufficient amount of time to do it all justice. The stuff that’s currently there services the film decent enough to drive the events but at some point there just doesn’t seem to be enough to connect with every character on a deep level.
For me the redeeming part of the film is the dark places it was willing to explore with Vaughn’s character. There’s a believable amount of rage to the character once he discovers the affair, which makes the film much more bearable since it deviates from the by-the-numbers romantic comedy formula. The other plus as far as aspects that have the potential to keep things generic is that they don’t demonize any specific character throughout the film. Each character has their redeeming and sympathetic sides as well as the deplorable characteristics as well; not a single one is without their flaws, which gives each audience member the opportunity to connect and sympathize with whoever they personally see eye to eye with in the situation.
Kevin James has yet to play a movie character that is as fun or funny as his King of Queens character; and I’d have to say that is still case even with THE DILEMMA. His character is definitely not the key source of comedy, but I have to say this is easily his best film role, which with his filmography isn’t that big of a compliment but still a compliment nonetheless. There isn’t a bad performance to be found, but no one quite matches Vaughn’s intensity and commitment to the material. Jennifer Connelly is good as always along with Winona Ryder. While the film never quite accomplishes the genuine emotional responses it is obviously trying to evoke, it’s elevated by Vince Vaughn’s psychotic yet restrained performance.
Ron Howard and company have a more than half of an interesting film, mostly due to the cast and their performances, but there is a very inconsistent mix of goofy, romantic and dark humor. When it’s all said and done THE DILEMMA is a decent and dark comedic effort that is cheapened by half hearted jokes and sections of dialogue that make no sense whatsoever. It’s a film that will split audiences because of its inconsistency but there is a lot to enjoy if you can get passed the generic rom com pitfalls.