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The Dilemma movie poster

The Dilemma: Movie Review

Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Ron Howard

Starring: Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Winona Ryder, Jennifer Connelly
Released by: Universal Pictures

In Short: Ron Howard doesn't make them like he used to as evidenced in this depressing drama, wrongly marketed as a comedy.

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Ron Howard’s Latest is a Bomb

Remember when Ron Howard knew how to make a comedy? Movies like “Night Shift” and “Splash” are true comedic gems; and his 1989 classic “Parenthood” deftly combined comedy and drama into a wonderful look at an extended family. Sadly, Howard’s latest, “The Dilemma,” is neither funny nor dramatic, just a painful exercise in bad storytelling. There’s a reason this movie is being released in January, the traditional Hollywood dumping-ground month, for it is a mess.

Please ignore the advertisements that make “The Dilemma” look like a comedy; despite the presence of comic actors Vince Vaughn and Kevin James as best friends and business partners, this story is not played for laughs. Not a single one. It isn’t that the jokes they attempt fall flat, either. It’s that there are no jokes. This is a drama, as the “Dilemma” of the piece occurs when Ronny (Vaughn) discovers that Nick’s (James) wife is cheating on him. Should he tell him?

Kevin James and Vince Vaughn in The Dilemma Winona Ryder, Jennifer Connelly, Kevin James and Vince Vaughn in The Dilemma

That’s “The Dilemma,” and the answer leads Ronny through a series of depressing events as he wrestles with the problem and begins following Nick’s wife (Winona Ryder) around, trying to catch her in the act of cheating on her husband with a much-younger man, played by Channing Tatum. His performance is the one bright spot in this otherwise predictable, by-the-numbers tale of male angst. Tatum gives a refreshing take on a not-that-smart young stud lusting after an older woman, right down to feeling badly about having slept with her when he finds out that she has a husband.

Perhaps the saddest thing about “The Dilemma” is the presence of Jennifer Connelly, who won an Academy Award for her work in Howard’s wonderful 2001 drama “A Beautiful Mind.” Her post-Oscar-win film work is a forlorn litany of second-string girlfriends and wives, and she’s relegated yet again to being Vaughn’s loving girlfriend in this, wasting her acting gifts in another throwaway role that could have been played by any novice actress in Hollywood. Why can’t she get a decent part in a good movie? Maybe it’s that curse that people talk about, the one that says that as soon as an actress wins the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, her career always goes straight down the drain? Whatever it is, it is a sad sight to behold.

But the worst thing overall about “The Dilemma” is Vince Vaughn’s performance, as he struggles mightily to make us believe that he is a dramatic actor. There are some things that just shouldn’t be attempted, and Vaughn as a serious thespian is definitely one of them. It is painful to watch.

Reviewed by Jenny Peters

(Updated: 01/14/11 CT)

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