The easy thing would be to put all the blame for this obnoxious mess of a movie on Ron Howard. He’s a solid craftsman who makes entertaining—if none too deep—standard Hollywood movies, and because of this, he’s completely at the mercy of his material. The times when he has attempted to step out from his comfort zone (The Missing (2003) and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) come to mind) have resulted in disasters.
Here we find Howard—working from a script by Allan Loeb, the man who contributed his writing talents to such films as 21 (2008) and The Switch (2010)—at the helm of a romantic comedy/drama hybrid whose main selling point is the tired screen antics of a bloated, exhausted-looking Vince Vaughn. It’s doubtful anyone could’ve made this movie watchable. Opie certainly isn’t the man to do it, lacking the comedic touch or the dramatic deftness to make this movie even moderately successful.
Howard’s already working from behind, since he is saddled with a script that is created to bring out the very worst aspects of Vaughn’s worn-out screen persona. We get the fast-talking Vaughn, and a whole lot of him, but it’s all sound and fury—and truly grating sound and fury at that. The viewer is assaulted with reel after reel of Vaughn simply not being funny, but wanting oh-so-badly to recapture the glory days of when his shtick felt fresh. The whole performance feels desperate.
If you want an idea of not only how bad Vaughn is in The Dilemma, but of how bad the entire cast is, ponder this: The best performance in the whole film is by professional beefcake Channing Tatum. The worrisome part is that there’s not even a contest. And while it’s not too surprising when you take into account Kevin James’ goofy clowning, this is a movie that also features Winona Ryder, who, honestly, looks confused throughout the film, and Jennifer Connelly, who, frankly, comes across as boring. And, of course, there are spots for Rance and Clint Howard, so you’re certain this is a Ron Howard film.
While the script doesn’t help, nor does the fact that the film never gets its footing. It slips in and out of drama and comedy while never getting close to nailing either. Vaughn plays Ronny, an entrepreneur who catches his best friend’s (James) wife (Ryder) cheating on him with some meathead (Tatum). Unsure of how or when to break the news to his buddy, Ronny instead finds himself spiraling out of control into various sets of screwball and slapstick comedy and scenes of slightly weightier histrionics like gambling addiction and relationship problems. None of the characters are very likable or deep.
The film’s 112-minute running time means we end up with a film that’s not only overly long, but also overly pointless. It’s a long, hard trek to an uninspired ending. The Dilemma isn’t any better than any number of unfunny, clunky comedies to come around lately; it just happens to be a bit longer and more annoying. Let’s hope this doesn’t count as progress. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements involving sexual content.