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An Unfunny Vince Vaughn and Kevin James Make 'The Dilemma' a Dilemma

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Vince Vaughn re-evaluates the “friend code” after he catches his best friend’s wife The Dilemmacheating on him in The Dilemma.

The Dilemma has about 5 good solid laughs throughout its running time. This is strange because it’s supposed to be, you know, a comedy.

Anyway, since we have entered a new decade, perhaps it’s time to ditch the tired “buddy movie” comedy formula that plagued the start of the millennium. That movement was pretty much started by Vaughn, and if The Dilemma is any indication, maybe it should end with him too.

The Dilemma stars Vaughn as Ronnie, a businessman trying to launch a hip new car design, along with neurotic best friend Nick( Kevin James) The two have been tight ever since college, and now have seen that friendship evolve into a successful business relationship. Nick’s wife, Geneva (Winnona Ryder) is also a college friend of Ronny’s, and the quartet is completed through Beth, Ronny’s sweet new girlfriend who looks to be the first marriage prospect he has even encountered.

Things get hairy when Ronny spots Geneva one day at the botanical gardens getting hot and heavy with a tattooed bad ass. He almost immediately confronts her, insisting she tell Nick of his infidelities or he will take the liberty. Geneva stalls him at first, indicating that Nick himself has been guilty of questionable unfaithful activities, and that she intends to tell him about the affair as soon the two successfully nab the high stakes business venture with Ford that they’re currently involved in.

After Geneva changes her tune threatening to lie and expose Ronnie if the secret is revealed, he sets out on a banal quest to get evidence of the affair. At this point, the movie throws him literally through a series of bloody hoops as he digs himself deeper into a hole while trying to figure out what to do. From blotchy skin rashes, to blood tinged urine, to black eyes and mangled body parts, there’s plenty of horrific, eye rolling slapstick to be had.

The Dilemma is a very off comedy-drama hybrid that’s average in the drama department and almost non-existent in the comedy arena. There are a handful of chuckles to be had here, and that’s hardly enough. The script doesn’t entirely botch the dramatic elements, but those aren’t exceptional, just passable, and so the experience ends up being tepid. As far as the buddy relationship at the film’s core, the chemistry between Nick and Ronny may have had potential, but the script never realizes it and the performers never really click as a team.

The characters are also fairly irritating, with the exception of the wonderful Jennifer Connelly. Both Vaughn and James are hypocritical and unlikeable, as shown in a ridiculous climax sequence in which the script James’s character acts wildly inappropriate and another bizarre scene with Vaughn mid film where he ends up in the home of Zip (Channing Tatum) who’s having the affair with Geneva. Speaking of Geneva, she’s played off as a monster, a manipulative despicable human being. The film tries to give her redemption in the climax, but it’s far too late at that point. Ryder’s icy bitchyness doesn’t bring much of anything to the role (and that’s a shame considering her wonderful turn in Black Swan last year).

Love or hate director Ron Howard, he is an accomplished filmmaker who even has a flair for comedy (he directed the 80’s classic Parenthood) but one really wonders why he would waste his time with this kind of material. Truthfully, Howard does find a way to make the experience interesting at points, but he botches up the attempted screwball elements, which come off uncomfortable, and half bakes the drama. The Dilemma is hardly the worst movie we’ll see in 2011, but it may be the most awkward.

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Contact Jim Teti at jteti@philly2philly.com 

Photos Courtesy of Universal Pictures