Over the years, Ron Howard’s name has become synonymous with quality. While it would be hard to deny the talent he possesses both in front of and behind the camera, his last few cinematic ventures have been rocky. Aside from 2008’s Oscar nominated Frost/Nixon, films like The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons have shown a dip, but his latest, titled The Dilemma, makes those movies look like masterpieces. I cannot claim to have seen everything Mr. Howard has directed, but of the films I have, none are worse than this.
It’s a simple story. Ronny (Vince Vaughn) is in a happy relationship with his longtime girlfriend, Beth (Jennifer Connelly). His best friend, Nick (Kevin James) also seems to be happy with his wife, Geneva (Winona Ryder), but Ronny soon learns that Geneva is cheating on Nick with a guy named Zip (Channing Tatum). Although he wants to tell him, he’s afraid the information may interfere with their latest business endeavor that could net them a huge deal with a major automotive company, so he keeps it quiet, which leads to heaps of trouble.
So for the next two hours, we watch as Ronny lies to everybody around him, a frustrating screenplay tactic to force in as many wacky scenarios and awkward situations as possible. The Dilemma is one of those movies where all the main character has to do is tell the truth and everything would be fixed. Instead, his ill-advised decisions get dragged to the point where misunderstandings begin to repeat and redundancy kicks in.
If you ask me, deciding whether or not to tell your best friend that his wife is cheating on him is easy. You do it. As the film progressed, however, I wondered if it even mattered. New revelations about all of the characters popped up and I began to realize that, with the exception of Beth, none of them were truly innocent. All had skeletons in their closets, most of which are left shamefully unexplored, including Nick’s weekly visits to a local massage parlor where he may or may not have been receiving sexual favors. The characters are simply too unlikable for us to care whether or not they end up happy. They could have ended up in a gutter somewhere and I would have walked out emotionally the same.
The Dilemma claims to be a comedy, but laughs are non-existent and that’s no exaggeration. When it isn’t taking itself seriously as a laughably half-baked statement on the nature of love and marriage, it dabbles in what some may call jokes. Regardless of how you classify them, they all land flat on the ground like a skateboarder attempting a trick with only three wheels. Both Vaughn and James, two guys I have never found funny, try their hardest to be witty, but have no comedic chemistry. Rather than play off each other, they seem tied down to the script, which at its best is tolerable and at its worst is completely unfunny and painfully maudlin.
There’s something unpleasant about The Dilemma that I can’t quite put my finger on. It could be due to its cynical look at relationships or its borderline deplorable characters, but there’s no real reason to see it. Ron Howard has had an amazing career that isn’t even close to being finished, but he deserves better and so do you.
The Dilemma receives 1/5