Dilemma, The: Ron Howard Return to Comedy

Part buddy film, part bromance, part serio-comedy, part chronicle of troubled relationships between emotionally damaged individuals, Ron Howard’s “The Dilemma” is a disappointing film on any of these levels.
“The Dilemma” marks Howard’s return to comedy, after a whole decade of directing somber Westerns (“The Missing”), political exposes (“Frost/Nixon”) and seemingly serious but trashy novels (“Da Vinci Code”)
But here, as director, Howard seems to be jugging a balancing act among elements of a film that’s simply not funny enough, not to mention too dark, to be a comedy, nor deep enough to qualify as a significant account of the friendship between two man, played by Vince Vaughn and Kevin James.
Add to it the fact that the characters, not the actors, are really not likeable and you have a hybrid of a picture that might have hard time pulling audiences into the theaters in cold (East Coast) or warm (West Coast) nights, though January is known in the business as the month of dumping bad pictures.
Over the past decade, Vince Vaughn has emerged as a major comedy actor with a busy career, making at least one film per year. The turning point, I think, was “Wedding Crashers,” after which Vaughn made at least half a dozen pictures, including The Breakup,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” “Couples Retreat,” ”Four Christmases.” Vaughn is now powerful and viable enough as an actor to get producing credits on his films.
One paper, the premise of how far you can bend a brotherly bond before it snaps and backfire, based on the notion that what you don’t say to your intimate friend is just as important as what you do, sounds good, or at least functional enough for a serviceable comedy.
Having spent much time together ever since they were college students, Ronny (Vaughn) and Nick (James) share many similarities in common, they move (and even dance) alike, communicate in a facile, short way (often based on gestures that are recognizable only to them), make brief references to the same phenom, without having to fully explain them, and so on.
Initially, the two friends represent opposite lifestyles. Ronny is a confirmed bachelor, whereas Nick is happily married. As partners in their own company, B&V Engine Design, the two pals share a fantasy to land a project that would put their company on the map in a big way.
The women in their lives, Ronny’s girlfriend, Beth (Jennifer Connelly) and
Nick’s wife, Geneva (Winona Ryder), are supportive of their dream—up to a point. Change occurs and Ronny’s world is turned upside down, when he inadvertently spots Geneva embracing and kissing another, younger and more handsome man (Channing Tatum)
Appearances are deceptive: After all, Nick’s marriage is not as perfect at it seemed to be, or as he believes it to be. Thus, Ronny’s moral dilemma: when and how to tell Nick. Acting on instincts, Ronny decides to wait, gather more info and get more answers, before telling Nick.
Soon, what begins as an amateur investigation dissolves Ronny’s world into mayhem, the kind that’s both comic and disastrous. In the process, Ronny finds out that Nick harbors some personal learns secrets of his own, and Geneva gets a chance to explain her conduct.
The men’s personal and interpersonal issues are placed against the context of their work. There’s mounting pressure from consultant Susan Warner (Queen Latifah) on what’s considered to be the biggest, riskiest presentation of their careers.
Meanwhile, the Big Dilemma–how and when to reveal the truth to his best friend—weighs heavy on Ronny’s shoulders, resulting in deterioration of his relationships and quality of life (such as it is).
The screenplay is credited to Allan Loeb, who had earlier penned Oliver Stone’s sequel, “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” and “Things We Lost in the Fire,” pieces of writing that also suffered from lack of consistent tone and dialogue that at best could be described as diffuse and rambling.
You may recall the controversy last fall, when the film’s trailer included the joke, “Electric Cars Are Gay.” Other witty lines might have been omitted from the story as presented on screen, which comes across as both overbaked and underbaked.
All in all a misguided project, “The Dilemma” is one of the few Ron Howard films that lacks a firm hand, seldom finding its right mood, variegating from dark and somber to warm, funny, and fuzzy and back.  
But you can’t blame the actors. Few actors are as fast-talking as Vaughn, whose specialty in motor-mouth gimmicks is in full evidence here. Of the three women, the only one to navigate semi-successfully through the largely pedestrian writing is Winona Ryder.
Cast
Ronny Valentine – Vince Vaughn
Nick Brennan – Kevin James
Beth – Jennifer Connelly
Geneva – Winona Ryder
Zip – Channing Tatum
Susan Warner – Queen Latifah
Credits
 
Universal release presented with Imagine Entertainment in association with Spyglass Entertainment of a Brian Grazer/Wild West Picture Show production.
Produced by Grazer, Ron Howard, Vince Vaughn.
Executive producers, Todd Hallowell, Victoria Vaughn, Kim Roth.
Directed by Ron Howard.
Screenplay, Allan Loeb.
Camera, Salvatore Totino; editors, Mike Hill, Dan Hanley; music, Hans Zimmer, Lorne Balfe; music supervisor, Alexandra Patsavas; production designer, Daniel Clancy; supervising art director, Dawn Swiderski; set designers, Chris Cleek, David Krummel, Jami Primmer; set decorator, Kathy Lucas; costume designer, Daniel Orlandi; sound, David Obermeyer; supervising sound editor, Chic Ciccolini III; re-recording mixers, Tom Fleischman, Bob Chefalas, Bret Johnson; special effects coordinator, John Milinac; visual effects supervisor, Justin Ball; visual effects, Brainstorm Digital; associate producers, Louisa Velis, Kathleen McGill, William M. Connor; stunt coordinator, Joe Bucaro; assistant director, Connor; second unit director, Todd Hallowell; casting, Jane Jenkins, Janet Hirshenson.
MPAA Rating: PG-13.
Running time: 110 Minutes