Early on in The Dilemma there is a candid discussion about what it is like to "go through a hell" in order to really know someone. The boyfriend / girlfriend couple (Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Connelly) compare notes with the married couple (Winona Ryder and Kevin James). It isn't a wholeheartedly terrible scene, the cadence is light and breezy. It is also, as it turns out, the high point of the film.*
If you see this movie, hold on to that moment and don't you dare let go. You'll need to steel yourself for the hell that's about to be unleashed. Sadly, a dinner with Jennifer Connelly doesn't await.
The title of The Dilemma comes from Vince Vaughn's conundrum. He's caught his best friend's wife cheating -- should he tell him? Should he confront her? And what about Kevin and Vince's efforts to build an electric car engine that sounds like a classic muscle car? Ah yes, let us not forget that silly plot point, for it's the very reason Vaughn can't enlighten James, because he's just too busy working on the project! But a terrible storyline could have been easily forgiven if the script had deigned to include jokes or moments of jocularity. It does not.
The entire film is also stuffed with awkward musical transitions and forced momentum throughout. Nothing really happens, but no time is spared for comedy either. A very poor effort from a talented group of people, this is a terrible movie wrapped in a glossy package. Professional cameras were used, various contracts were signed, and people were paid in full, but it all adds up to nothing. You needn't trouble yourself a moment more with this title, simply avoid this film and do something more interesting with your time.
However, if you're still not satisfied, and you find yourself wanting to know more about this Dilemma movie, then the rest of this review will be written in narrative form. Why not? What can one man do when faced with all this madness?
None of us in the theater could figure out what director Ron Howard was trying to do. We watched expectantly, as an anointed BEST DIRECTOR of a BEST PICTURE demands our allegiance and respect, but you could tell people were getting nervous, weirdness pervading. Fidgety coughs, the occasional seat squirm, an awkward glance at your loved one to see if they too were bored silly. Still, we watched, and we waited, if only because Vince Vaughn brought us Swingers and Jennifer Connelly brought Russ Crowe back from the brink in A Beautiful Mind. Surely she has the power to bring this movie back, too. Surely the man who made Gretzky's head bleed could make us laugh one more time, one more round, for one more film.
In hindsight, we couldn't have known. Why would the man who narrated Arrested Development, a temple to hilarity, hit us about the head and shoulders with a comedy claw hammer? Why would the fella who so lovingly steered Apollo 13 and Cinderella Man waste two hours of our lives in such an egregious fashion? You can say we were naive. "January comedy, c'mon," I hear you snorting, but it's never a failing to believe. And we believed in you, cast and crew of The Dilemma. We believed in you, and you didn't deliver, unless the terms of the delivery were an unfunny foray into illogical and petty contrivances.
I just checked. Those were not the terms of delivery.
It was only after the film that the carnage was apparent, the damage tallied, the lack of laughs pondered and considered. There was a scene where one friend desperately wanted to tell another friend about an urgent matter, but he couldn't, because his friend was too busy. You probably remember that moment from never in your life, or from the worst plot points terrible films have to offer. There's another scene where Vince Vaughn follows Winona Ryder in what appears to be a $50,000 vehicle with a gurgling muscle car engine, the precise type of automobile you wouldn't be able to sneak around with, unless you were stalking inanimate objects. If a tree were your prey, this would be the perfect stalking method.
Speaking of trees, Vince Vaughn falls out of one. Do you get it? HE FALLS. We smiled in agony.
Moments, moments, and more moments like this added up to lightness fading from our eyes. The projectionist brought up the house lights five minutes before the film ended, a very savvy decision. If only the curtain was available to close before the opening credits, we all would have gone home much happier.
*The Channing Tatum cameo made me laugh once or twice too. He should be held blameless in the eventual jury trial. But 90 seconds of C-Tates maketh a film not.