Saturday, July 02, 2011

680 - The Dilemma review

I hadn’t expected Ron Howard’s “The Dilemma” to be so serious, though I can hardly fault the film for a misleading ad campaign. What I can fault the film for is the general unpleasantness, its oppressive, manic yet dreary energy. There’s a moment where Vince Vaughn invades a man’s home and gets in a knockdown, drag-out fight, smashing doors, killing fish, bashing in classic cars, hysterically screaming threats to burn the face off his opponent. What conceivable audience member would enjoy this scene in any movie, much less what’s sold as a benign PG-13 comedy?

The titular dilemma involves Vince Vaughn, who discovers BFF Kevin James’ wife in the middle of an affair. Vaughn agonizes about whether or not to tell his pal, while we agonize about our own dilemma, which is whether or not to finish the movie. Howard, allegedly the same director who picked up a Best Director statue some ten years ago, finds himself wholly unable to tackle the subject matter. He takes a scenario of moral and practical complexity and addresses it with the confused angst of a dim-witted teenager, hurling around limp platitudes about “honesty,” whittling what should be meaningful discussions and revelations into trite sitcom awkwardness. No adult men on earth understand friendship and discuss their feelings the way Vaughn and James do here, in a grating, awkward tone, as if secretly expecting the other to lunge at the other in a lustful fit.

There’s nothing to recommend here except Jennifer Connelly’s visage, though one can look elsewhere for that. As a bonus bit of awfulness, the project Vaughn and James are contracted to work on: making electric engines louder for Dodge. I’m guilty of occasional bad writing, but I could never dream up something that stupid.

Already famous as a flop for Vaughn and Howard, it's perhaps best known as the film that got GLAAD in a conniption over a few lines mocking a car as "gay." You won't find me advocating censorship of gay jokes any time soon, so imagine my shock when I discovered that it actually does sound pretty offensive when Vaughn says it.

0.5 out of 5

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