Because A-list director Ron Howard’s name is associated with “The Dilemma,” one anticipates a greater level of ambition, perhaps, than an average movie starring Vince Vaughn and Kevin James.
And, yes, although the concept is sit-commy, you can sense Howard straining to give
it some grounding, maybe make it more real, somehow. But perhaps that wasn’t the way to go.
Not with Vaughn and James around, anyway. The film’s only real life comes when these two riff with each other and create some kind of comic energy.
It’s really Vince Vaughn’s show. He and James play old buddies and business partners who are working on an idea so absurd that, tragically, it probably has a realistic basis. They will deliver a device that will make an electric car sound like a big, loud, gas-guzzling 1970 Dodge Challenger.
The dilemma? Vaughn sees James’ wife (Winona Ryder) making out with another guy (Channing Tatum, from the “Step Up” movies). Should he tell his friend? Confront the wife? Confide in his girlfriend (Jennifer Connelly)?
Vaughn’s far-fetched responses are only partly explicable by his past as an addictive gambler, which might suggest why he’d try to keep secrets and maneuver his way through the situation without confronting it head on.
But really, it’s more likely that screenwriter Alan Loeb (he also wrote “The Switch”) needed a few obstacles to keep the plot going. And a few reasons for Vaughn to get in situations where he must utilize his prodigious gift of gab.
As with so many of Vince Vaughn’s pictures, that is the main reason to hang around and keep watching. The real gem is a toast he gives to his girlfriend’s parents on the occasion of their 40th anniversary, a maladroit tongue-twister that proves to his friends that he might be losing his marbles.
Vaughn’s got that blend of humor and hostility down pat. Connelly, who won an Oscar in Howard’s “A Beautiful Mind,” is admirably calm in a role that could’ve been played by a dozen actresses.
It’s kind of interesting to see Winona Ryder again, although her intensity is unsettling here (or maybe I’m just flashing back to her “Black Swan” role).
Queen Latifah has a small, irrelevant part. And the scene that caused a minor controversy when it showed up in trailers a while back (in which the word “gay” is used as an adjective disconnected from its meaning regarding sexual orientation) is still there — and the stupidest thing about that is the idea that these two guys would use it in a meeting where they were trying to get hired for a job.
Howard wants the movie to be more than just a comedy, and he avoids the crasser jokes that usually pepper the buddy comedy. But this is definitely a “bromance,” a tale of two men and their loyal friendship, and another indication that Hollywood is happiest with movies about boys who can’t grow up.
Vince Vaughn knows his buddy’s wife is cheating; should he tattle? That sitcom problem powers this Ron Howard film, which comes to life when Vaughn is doing one of his patented free-form riffs but is otherwise a very tame “bromance.” With Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly.
Rated: PG-13 for language, subject matter
Showing: Alderwood, Cinebarre, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monrow, Marysville, Olympic, Stanwood, Metro, Oat Tree, Pacific Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall