Movie Review: The Dilemma

Movie – The Dilemma

Director: Ron Howard (Backdraft, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man, Frost/Nixon)

Writer: Allan Loeb (Things We Lost in the Fire, 21, The Switch)

Starring: Vince Vaughn (Wedding Crashers, Dodgeball, Old School, Swingers), Kevin James (I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, Hitch, Paul Blart: Mall Cop), Winona Ryder (Heathers, Girl, Interrupted, Dracula) and Jennifer Connelly (Requiem for a Dream, A Beautiful Mind, Blood Diamond)

Theater – Cinemark Movies 12 – Ames, Iowa

Companion – Nader

Food – King Buffet

Intellectual Honesty

I’ve been a big fan of Winona Ryder since Heathers, (one of my all-time favorite movies) but it doesn’t seem like she has gotten many great roles lately. She was in Black Swan, but she seemed slightly out of place. Ditto for Jennifer Connelly. I know these won’t be great roles, but at least it is something.


Oh Vince Vaughn, I wish we could just go back to Swingers and start all over again. Kevin James’ stand up comedy is hilarious, but his movies have been absolutely awful, with the exception of Hitch. He owes me a written apology for my sitting through Paul Blart: Mall Cop, perhaps the worst movie of 2009.

I’m not sure how Ron Howard became attached to this movie. My best guess is that he was feeling nostalgic for his early days of Night Shift, Splash and Gung Ho. I would think that the director of Apollo 13, Ransom, Frost/Nixon and A Beautiful Mind would pursue a more demanding project, but then I remember he also made Edtv, The Da Vinci Code and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Synopsis from IMDB

A man finds out that what you don’t say to a friend is just as important as what you do is this story of how far you can bend a brotherly bond before it snaps. Since college, confirmed bachelor Ronny (Vaughn) and happily married Nick (James) have been through thick and thin. Now partners in an auto design firm, the two pals are vying to land a dream project that would launch their company. Ronny’s girlfriend, Beth (Connelly), and Nick’s wife, Geneva (Ryder), are by their sides. But Ronny’s world is turned upside down when he inadvertently sees Geneva out with another man and makes it his mission to get answers. As the amateur investigation dissolves into mayhem, he learns that Nick has a few secrets of his own. Now, with the clock ticking and pressure mounting on the biggest presentation of their careers, Ronny must decide what will happen if he reveals the truth to his best friend.


The surprise of this movie is that the best role and only performance worth noting is Winona Ryder’s turn as the cheating wife. Amazingly her character ends up being extremely likable and while you hate her for what she is doing, she is still intelligent, interesting and has a level of depth missing from every other character in the movie.

Kevin James is a little hard to believe as an auto-engineering genius. He plays the straight man and while Paul Blart proved that he doesn’t belong as the leading man in a movie, he is much better as the goofy friend like in Hitch than as the friend of the goofy guy.

Vince Vaughn plays the exact same role he has played in every movie and he plays it well, but at some point I hope to seem him cover some new ground. At least the character is likable in this role, unlike Wedding Crashers or The Break-up.

Connelly is completed wasted in this role. She plays Vaughn’s girlfriend struggling to trust him due to his gambling addiction. However, this is never really explored and seems to be mentioned as little more than a plot device.

Channing Tatum was surprisingly interesting as Zip, the man that Ryder was having an affair with. Surprisingly, I wanted him in the movie more. His character was legitimately funny.

Not legitimately funny but just flat out puzzling is Queen Latifah. I think her character existed only to remind the audience that on top of the dilemma Vaugn’s Ronny was facing, he and James’ Nick need to produce an electric motor that sounds and shakes a car like a muscle car from the 70s. Why anybody would be interested in such a product, I don’t know. Apparently the filmmakers felt it was necessary to try to make her “funny” by repeatedly saying “woman wood”, but it wasn’t funny.

Of course, that is really the main problem with this movie. According to the Internet Movie Database, this movie is both a comedy and a drama. Well, it tries to be a comedy but feels like a drama.

It isn’t completely devoid of humor though. It isn’t laughless like Grown Ups. In fact, the scene where Ronny gives a toast to a couple married for 40 years is one of the funnier scenes of the year, but the laughs are few and far between for the rest of the movie.

It wasn’t a bad movie, but it felt like wasted potential. It wasted the talents of Ron Howard, Winona Ryder and Jennifer Connelly. Even though Ryder is definitely the highlight of the movie.

I think a better ending might have gotten an extra half star out of me.

2.5/5.0 Caramels

Buy on DVD
No, but I’m reminded that I should see if Heathers is on Blu-Ray. I would watch this movie again on cable.

2011 Ranking
As the first 2011 movie I’ve seen, it currently ranks #1. I hope it doesn’t hold it for very long.

Bonus Information
Since the Cinemark refuses to bring any movies of merit to Ames, next week Nader and I are going down to The Fleur to see The King’s Speech and I will introduce Nader to the greatness that is Ted’s Coney Island.

I’m sick of seeing advertisements for Sucker Punch. I’m intrigued by Hall Pass. I don’t know what to think of Your Higness. Might be an early contender for worst movie of 2011 (with Sucker Punch and Just Go with It), but it might also be brilliant.

There was a certain amount of controversy about the use of the word “gay” in The Dilemma. To know what I think about that controversy read The Toad, The Turtle, and the Duck in David Sedaris’ “clever” Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Beastiary.

One other note, Raging Bull came out on Blu-Ray on Tuesday. If you haven’t already, you should run to buy it.