Review: The Dilemma

Once upon a time Vince Vaughn and his motormouth soliloquies could steal the show in any bromance, romantic comedy or 70s TV remake. The man could talk about nothing but being a motor boating son of gun and it would provide a much need laugh to a half-baked comedic plot. In The Dilemma, he officially ran out of gas and is running on empty with not even vapors to help him out.

Vaughn stars here as Ronny Valentine, who is the dynamic in the duo with automobile partner Nick Brannen played by fellow jelly bellied comic, Kevin James. As Ronny and Nick are about to make a lifetime deal with Dodge-Chrysler Motors, Ronny sees Nick’s wife Geneva (Wynona Ryder) knocking boots with young hipster Zip (Channing Tatum). This not only puts Ronny in a bind to either tell Nick  or lose the lifetime deal, but alienates him from his heart-of-gold girlfriend Beth (Jennifer Connelly). What follows is a series of dead-end soliloquies and stalker antics by Vaughn with intermittent and awkward sermons about gambling addiction followed by a return to the bromantic “dilemma” at hand.

The story about Ronny’s gambling addiction itself seems to be a more interesting story for Vaughn and company, but, hey, this is comedy and it can’t take itself too seriously.

Director Ron Howard makes his mark here on the current bromance comedy packages that have drenched the multiplexes with testosterone over the past few years. It also marks his first return to comedy in 10 years, since How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and things have still not improved. All the Howard clan of actors are front and center with creepy little brother Clint Howard playing another creepy little guy that runs the Chicago Botanical Gardens and family patriarch Race Howard playing the father of Connelly’s Beth. The rest are sprinkled throughout and somewhere there is Queen Latifah in the most pointless role of her career to deliver some awkward jokes to Vaughn about getting “lady wood” and then exit the screen to pick up her pay check.

This was a huge disappointment from Howard after the complexity of his previous dramedies Parenthood and The Paper.  The style from those films is brought down to a very simple and generic look, with the exception of Vaughn’s cool blue 1970 Dodge Challenger. The remaining stylistic decisions involved a mix of the Chicago skyline and extreme close-ups of the actors that were very scary at times as we see layers of caked make-up on Vaughn and James, making you wonder when these guys got so old.

While Vaughn goes about his usual disastrous business, the other characters are involved in mostly unrelated situations. James sits on the side lines and bellyaches about the car deal, Ryder pouts and only gives one solid scene of freighting feminine black mail, and Connelly just bats her beautiful almond shaped eyes at all the mess that is going on. As within the tradition of bromances, the talented female actors involved have little or nothing to do other than just stand next to guys and smile.

If there is one performance that is really worth mentioning, it is Tatum’s. After all of those eye blistering Nicholas Sparks adaptations and overzealous war movies, here he gets to play a character that can go for broke. As the dimly named Zip, Tatum looks like he is having a lot fun here playing the drugged out boyfriend of errors. His comically violent scene between him and Vaughn, proves to be the only highlight of laughs in this flat tire affair. It should be noted that he is only on screen for around 10 minutes, which may be all that we need from that kind of over-the-top character.

As the screenplay by Allan Loeb numbly goes on to the  predictable ending, most of it feels like a lame SNL sketch idea rather than a screenplay. The flashes of drama come and go, while the jokes look like they were added in by Vaughn and the cast. The laziest example of writing comes during a false climax, where every major character is placed in an apartment living room for an ill-conceived intervention. Everyone enters and leaves the scene as if it were a high school stage play and not like a new big budget comedy directed by Ron Howard and starring Vince Vaughn and Kevin James.

The Dilemma is a bromance that is done way before we get to the most overtly “non-gay” man hug and love roll since Burt and Ernie shared a bed together.

The Upside: Channing Tatum’s small part is the funniest thing in a comedy with very little laughs. Vaughn gets to drive a beautiful fully-restored Blue 1970 Dodge Challenger.

The Downside: It’s not funny and tries to inject some serious drama out of nowhere.

On the Side: You could play a wicked drinking game on how many soliloquies and mini-monologues Vaughn gives in the movie’s 98 minute running time. I counted 7 within in the first 20 minutes. Bottom’s up.

Benji Carver is a fetus of many great 80s action movies, that is trying to escape his Sam Shepard past. (Don't believe him? Just ask his ex-girlfriend.) Benji claims to be from the wild streets of Oakland, CA but really is from the rolling hill of Morgan Hill-which currently supplies much of the non-magic mushrooms of the West. Now a recent transplant to LA, where he is yet awaiting his first high speed chase and shoot out, a make out session with some celebrity chick, throwing a type writer out a window, and meeting his idol Jean Claude-Van Damme.

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