The Dilemma
dir Ron Howard
scr Allan Loeb
prd Brian Grazer, Vince Vaughn
with Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly, Winona Ryder, Channing Tatum, Queen Latifah, Amy Morton, Chelcie Ross, Eduardo N Martinez, Guy Van Swearingen, Rance Howard, Clint Howard
release US 14.Jan.11, UK 21.Jan.11
11/US Imagine 1h58
The Dilemma
Friends and lovers: Ryder, Connelly, Vaughn and James

latifah tatum howard
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The Dilemma A lack of focus leaves this film neither funny enough to be a comedy nor astute enough to be a drama. Although it's clearly trying to be both, there's nothing about the story or characters that grabs our attention.

Best buddies Ronny and Nick (Vaughn and James) are trying to get their business off the ground, creating muscle-car effects for electric vehicles. One day Ronny spots Nick's wife Geneva (Ryder) kissing another man (Tatum). He's afraid to tell Nick because they're bidding for their first big contract. And he can't tell his own girlfriend Beth (Connelly), because he's planning to propose. So he confronts Geneva, who tells Ronny that her marriage is complicated. So what should Ronny do next?

Frankly, this isn't much of a dilemma. Ronny obviously should do the right thing by his pal, but he dithers to allow for a series of set pieces that are embarrassing rather than amusing. All this does is make us wonder what the filmmakers are trying to do. Is it a wacky comedy about the bond between two friends or a dark drama about marriage? Either way, it has about as much depth as Ronny and Nick's business, putting a superficially macho roar and shake on an efficiently quiet motor.

It's impossible to sympathise with men who are this shallow. Vaughn and James kind of amble through the film like loveable losers. Only Connelly and Ryder create interesting characters: both surprise us even though the script never bothers to stretch them. In small roles, Latifah (as a Detroit exec) steals her scenes with a stream of rude gags, and Tatum generates interest simply because he plays his hapless character as a different person in every scene.

By the end, the film's tone has been so widely scattershot that we're not sure whether we're supposed to laugh or cry at the big emotional climax. And it also seems so desperate not to be gay that it's actually homophobic. The cast plays for laughs, but Howard directs as if the climax is some sort of huge catharsis. And if the final message is that true friendship can survive anything, it also cynically implies that bromance is stronger than marriage.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, innuendo 12.Jan.11

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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall