The Dilemma: A Buddy Comedy That's Kind of a Bummer
The title of The Dilemma seems apt, because the film is having a dilemma of its own: how do you make jokes about a marriage falling apart? The film tries to make light of what is frankly, a sad scenario, and it never really gets the balance of drama and comedy quite right.
Vince Vaughn plays Ronny Valentine, a small business owner who works on electric car motors in Chicago with his best friend from college, Nick (Kevin James). Ronny is the face of their operation, using his smooth sales techniques to wheel and deal with clients; Nick is the brains, the nerdy engineer who sees the projects through completion. They're the perfect team, and with Nick's wife Geneva (Winona Ryder) and Ronny's girlfriend Beth (Jennifer Connelly), the foursome is practically like family. But when Ronny catches Geneva playing tonsil hockey with a tattooed guy who's not, he begins to question everything: the sanctity of marriage, friendship, and most of all, to tell or not to tell?
Find out where the film works and where it doesn't
Once Ronny discovers Geneva's infidelity, he confronts her, and she agrees to end her fling. But when it becomes apparent that she's still seeing the guy — Zip (Channing Tatum) is his name — Ronny takes matters into his own hands to get evidence of the affair. The deeper Ronny gets, the more his own love life suffers, and the foursome starts to fall apart.
It would all be a very sad state of affairs, if the film wasn't trying to constantly gloss over its more serious moments with silliness. As a result, it's neither here nor there; one minute you're laughing as Ronny and Nick ham it up at a hockey game, the next you're watching Geneva desperately explain her crumbling marriage. Director Ron Howard tries to handle too many real issues, but his film is unequipped to actually deal with them.
There are a few clever scenes in the midst of the lowbrow humor, but Vaughn is definitely the one carrying the movie; he's been doing the same shtick for years, and it still works here. He provides the movie with most of its jokes so James and the ladies in the cast take a backseat. Tatum is also a standout; he gets to flex his comedic muscle as a badass with a sensitive side (and a gratuitous butt shot).
The Dilemma delivers laughs (I enjoyed it more than I expected after seeing the trailer). But once you actually stop to think about what you're chuckling about — a failing marriage, a wandering eye — you're left wondering if perhaps it's not so funny after all.