'The Dilemma': The Reviews Are In

Critics aren't quite on the same page about the Vince Vaughn/ Kevin James comedy.

Vince Vaughn can open the heck out of a relationship comedy. Stellar reviews, weak ones — it hardly seems to matter. "The Break-Up" debuted with $39.1 million in 2006, followed by "Four Christmases" ($31.1 million) in '08 and "Couples Retreat" ($34.3 million) last year.

So we shouldn't pay undue heed to the middling reviews "The Dilemma" has been attracting. While Vaughn's latest comedy — directed by Ron Howard and co-starring Kevin James — likely won't crack the $30 million mark, it should settle into the high $20 million range after the four-day weekend is over.

Part of the problem, perhaps, is that "Dilemma" faces off against "The Green Hornet," and youngish date-nighters might be swayed toward Seth Rogen's hip action flick rather than Vaughn's defiantly un-"Swingers"-like offering. Which one is the right choice for you at the multiplex? Take a gander at what the critics are saying about "The Dilemma" and decide for yourself.

The Story

"The dilemma of Ronny (Vaughn) is whether to tell his best bud and business partner Nick (Kevin James) that Nick's wife Geneva (Winona Ryder) has been cheating on him. In launching a stealth intel op on her affair, Ronny gets himself in absurd situations (like getting covered with welts after climbing through poisonous plants in a botanical garden) that trouble his patient-but-exasperated girlfriend (Jennifer Connelly), who is also close friends with the other couple. The movie is much like a really long beer commercial — but a really dark one." — Kyle Smith, New York Post

The Performances

"As he did in the even-more-painful 'The Break-Up,' Vaughn deploys his knack for high-grade Woody Allen nattering as a kind of verbal battering ram, mercilessly pounding everyone into submission. He's funny and more than a little scary, but he also gets to show off his sensitive side: He weeps, he prays. Saline shows up elsewhere, too, most notably in a fake-crying diner demo that might be a twist on 'When Harry Met Sally.' Ryder is terrific in this sequence, brittle and unlikable in others; James is panicky from start to finish; Connelly, as the only real grown-up in the picture, glides through it all with mature detachment." — Amy Biancolli, Houston Chronicle

The Mature Vince

"From the first scene, it's clear that screenwriter Allan Loeb ('Things We Lost in the Fire,' 'The Switch') has created a far more adult world than we're used to seeing Vaughn navigate. Rather than 'Old School' issues like how many kegs does a frat party need, or 'Wedding Crasher' tips on cruising for quickies, here the discussion over dinner leans toward the philosophical, with the guys wearing suits and sampling the wine like they could actually tell if it was a decent vintage." — Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times

The Tone

" 'The Dilemma' is a movie that faces a dilemma of its own. Namely, is it a comedy with dark undertones or a serious film lightened by occasional bursts of laughter? Unfortunately, director Ron Howard can't seem to make up his mind, so the movie sputters ahead, never feeling sure of itself. There are a few big laughs, but there are also long stretches in which nothing funny happens." — Randy Cordova, The Arizona Republic

The Final Word

"Not that 'The Dilemma' is exactly 'Blue Valentine.' But within its slick, cozy, commercial parameters it has an interestingly rough texture. There is some rangy alt-rock to go with the classic hits, and views of lived-in Chicago neighborhoods to offset the postcard-ready skyline shots. If the film never probes too deeply into the pain and frustration of Nick and Geneva's marriage, that may be because it sees them almost entirely from Ronny's perspective. Though he has feelings, he's ultimately a pretty shallow guy. And the movie is not all that deep, but it does go further than many of its kind in acknowledging the hurt and difficulty that are the deep wellsprings of any comedy worthy of the name. Which, to come full circle, is what 'The Dilemma,' against all expectations, turns out to be." — A.O. Scott, The New York Times

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