*** (out of 5)
January 14, 2011
Vince Vaughn as RONNY VALENTINE
Kevin James as NICK BRANNEN
Jennifer Connelly as BETH
Winona Ryder as GENEVA
Channing Tatum as ZIP
Queen Latifah as SUSAN WARNER
Directed by: Ron Howard
BY KEVIN CARR
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Like many movie fans out there, I have been extremely impressed by the work of Ron Howard as a director (with special considerations to forgive him for “The Grinch” and “The Missing”). Back in the 80s, when he moved into directing feature films, he was quickly dismissed as Opie Cunningham who is just launching off sit-com acting to try and make it big now that he’d gone bald. However, after cutting his teeth on comedies like “Night Shift,” “Splash” and “Gung Ho,” he moved into dramas and (for the most part) never looked back.
Howard returns to directing comedy in the new film “The Dilemma,” which stars Vince Vaughn as Ronny Valentine, a man who works with in the R&D field of automobiles. Ronny’s best friend is Nick Brannen (Kevin James), who is married to Geneva (Winona Ryder). When Ronny is planning an elaborate set-up to propose to his girlfriend (Jennifer Connelly), he discovers that Geneva is cheating on Nick. Ronny then struggles with whether to tell Nick, how to tell Nick and what might happen to their personal and professional relationships if he does.
While this is Howard’s return to comedy, “The Dilemma” has a lot more drama in it than films like “Night Shift” and “Splash.” In fact, were it not for some key moments in which Vince Vaughn does his shtick, you might actually think this is actually a drama with just some elements of comic relief.
The drama in “The Dilemma” isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s something a viewer might want to be aware of, especially if they’re expecting something wacky like “Dodgeball” or “Wedding Crashers.”
Still, those comedy elements are needed because were they not there, “The Dilemma” could be one of the darkest, seediest movies in a while. It deals with some really heavy issues, like infidelity on multiple levels, addiction, abuse and a scorchingly sour view on marriage and relationships. In fact, when the dilemma comes to a breaking point and Ronny takes action, things get extremely dark and violent, and only that reminder that this is a comedy keeps the film from becoming a brutal crime flick.
So keep all this in mind if you’re going to see it on a Friday or Saturday night. This isn’t a date movie… unless it’s a blind date that you realized you didn’t like during dinner and want to ensure there will be no second date.
With all of this taken into consideration, “The Dilemma” is still a good movie. It’s not great, and honestly, it’s substandard for what I’ve come to expect from Ron Howard. But for any other director, this would be completely passable as a dark comedy in the early part of the year.
The performances are good, with Vaughn being the anchor. He is in the spotlight most of the time, and it is clearly his movie. In fact, Kevin James plays more of a supporting character than anything else, only showing up from time to time to remind us that there’s a real guy at the corner of that love triangle.
The only real weak spot is Winona Ryder as Geneva. Her career seems to have crumbled in the last twenty years, as has her acting ability. Still, she’s attractive, and her presence should be enough in this movie to flummox any chubby dude out there wondering how a character like Kevin James could land her. (Of course, one would only have to think back to last summer’s “Grown Ups” where his character was married to Maria Bello and realize this is a simple Hollywood fantasy.)
I didn’t hate “The Dilemma,” but I didn’t love it either. Therein is my own dilemma. It’s not a waste of a film, and I think it actually gives more for the audience to think about than a stupid screwball comedy that couldn’t make it in the summer or holiday tent pole seasons. But for a Ron Howard film, it leaves a bit to be desired.