Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Video Review: The Dilemma Almost Delivers, But Fails

Both these guys bring it in The Dilemma, despite the fact
that it winds up being a mediocre movie.
I went into The Dilemma with low expectations, had those expectations met, and yet came away from the whole ordeal greatly disappointed.
The marketing campaign hammered home the basic storyline of a guy named Ronny (Vince Vaughn) wrestling with how to handle his discovery that Geneva (Winona Ryder) the wife of his best friend and business partner Nick (Kevin James) is cheating with a beefcake named Zip (Channing Tatum). Based on that, I was expecting a pedestrian Vaughn vehicle along the lines of Couples Retreat and Four Christmases. Put more plainly: I was expecting a generic relationship comedy featuring funny and/or enjoyable actors playing down to weak material with some patented Vaughn freak-out rhetoric thrown in for good measure.
Ultimately that is what this thing becomes, and in many ways it’s the worst version of that formula, because almost none of the supporting characters are funny (the exception being Tatum who here hints at the great comic potential he showcased in 21 Jump Street), Vaughn’s big freak-out (a speech at the anniversary dinner of his girlfriend’s parents) is a weak facsimile of his more classic riffs, and the last scene is just so epically hokey.

The last scene in this movie is dumb. Here's a shot from it.
That would be all well in good if the film didn’t have enough interesting, messy developments (i.e. the possibility that Nick is also cheating, the underlying credibility issue Ronny faces given his gambling addiction) to promise something more considered and complicated. The film lays some solid groundwork and Vaughn really delivers, offering up a nicely modulated performance. Midway through, I was hoping this might be more along the lines of the vastly underrated The Break-Up, but sadly it devolved into generic rubbish.
In the end, the film is reminiscent of X-Men: The Last Stand or even Vaughn’s own Fred Claus* – it’s mediocre entertainment, but there’s enough good stuff to indicate a far better movie could’ve been made, making things even more frustrating than if the film had just outright sucked.
 *I actually reviewed this film back in my Collegian days, and its available online here. In reading my own review, it occurs to me just how little progress Vaughn has made in the last five years.** Here’s hoping he can find the right project for his talent soon, because he does bring his A-game here, even if the movie doesn’t deserve it.
** The same can be said for costar Jennifer Connelly (who plays Vaughn’s girlfriend) and director Ron Howard. Connelly hasn’t done anything worthy of her skills since her bit role in Little Children. And other than a cameo from his brother Clint, nothing in this film would indicate it was directed by accomplished and diverse Oscar winner Ron Howard. I was a big fan of Frost Nixon (although I know many others weren’t), but Howard’s been wallowing over the last seven years otherwise, churning out two mediocre Da Vinci Code movies and now this.  Thankfully, things are looking up for both of them. Connelly is reuniting with Requiem for a Dream director Darren Aronofsky (not to mention A Beautiful Mind star Russell Crowe) for Noah, and Howard has a biopic of formula 1 racer Niki Lauda.