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Movie Review

The Dilemma

The Dilemma
Vince Vaughn and Kevin James together make a promising team in "The Dilemma," but audiences who might have expected comedic sparks to fly will be disappointed. James is just a straight man here, in a sometimes very funny, sometimes very serious hybrid—the "dilemma" of which is that it's not sure what it wants to be. A crackerjack showcase for Vaughn to do his Vaughn thing, "The Dilemma" explores interesting ideas about relationships, responsibility of friendships, and other areas, but never finds the right groove, instead sometimes going over the top in its quest for laughs and pathos. It's never dull, but the awkward mix doesn't always jell.

In the intriguing setup, we get to meet best-friend couples: the married Nick (James) and Geneva (Winona Ryder) and the happily living-togethers Ronny (Vaughn) and Beth (Jennifer Connelly). Both seem to be well-adjusted, fun-loving pairs, but Ronny soon discovers that not all is what it seems to be between his best married friend Nick and Nick's wife. On an outing to set up the perfect romantic spot to pop the question to Beth, Ronny instead sees Nick's wife kissing another guy: the tattooed and ripped Zip (Channing Tatum).

So here's his dilemma: Does he tell Nick or not? Of course if he did that right away, there would be no movie, so instead he starts playing detective by following Geneva around, confronting her, and finally even videotaping one of her secret trysts with Zip. This results in a knockdown, drag-out fight in the streets. As Ronny's predicament continues, Vaughn gets a couple of killer comic showcases worth the price of admission to see this gifted comedic actor in top form, including one scene set at a 40th anniversary dinner for Beth's parents at which he makes a toast in favor of "honesty" in relationships aimed indirectly at Geneva—but in doing so, he keeps digging a very deep hole for himself. There's also an amusing therapy session where everything comes to a head. In the background are comedic set pieces with the presentations business partners Nick and Ronny are making to land a big account.

Director Ron Howard, in a return to comedy, has a bit of trouble weaving together all the disparate elements of the script, by Allan Loeb, which results in uneven performances, Vaughn faring best. Vaughn has had experience in cutting-edge comedy with "The Break-Up" and effortlessly straddles that delicate balance between over-the-top hilarity and biting drama. Connelly isn't funny, and never will be, but she is quite fine in a subservient role here. James doesn't go for his Paul Blart or "King of Queens" persona, but the actor is always believable as a man clearly in denial about his own marital problems. Ryder's character is the trickiest, and she chooses to travel the emotional route, adding almost too much reality to this stew. The Tatum scenes are the biggest problem, played for big yuks but deviating too far from the earlier tone Howard was trying to set.

Howard is a fine director, but dramedy is hard. It is times like this when we miss Billy Wilder.

Genre: Comedy
Written by: Allan Loeb
Directed by: Ron Howard
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly, Winona Ryder, Channing Tatum.

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