Welcome to January, moviegoers! This is the month where Hollywood’s finest release their most shameful work, allowing them to spend the rest of the year making up for it while us reviewers pick at their doodie like ravenous flies. It’s like 4chan for the film industry. The Vince Vaughn and Kevin James bromance movie, “The Dilemma,” is the newest addition to this festival of flops.
Vaughn and James play Ronny and Nick, partners at an automotive design company building and marketing an engine to Chrysler. They each have a loving significant other; Nick has Geneva (Winona Ryder) and Ronny has Beth (Jennifer Connelly), each of whom is supportive and seemingly perfect for their respective beaus. But one day, while Ronny is planning his proposal to Beth in an exotic garden, he spies Geneva kissing another man (Channing Tatum). Ronny can’t decide whether he should tell Nick about the event and clear his conscience or keep it hidden until their project is done so that Nick can focus. Quite “The Dilemma,” is it not?
The situation at hand provides a reasonable premise for the movie. Ronny’s decision is a tough one that many guys have to deal with in real life. However, rather than showing the viewers how to properly handle such a difficult situation, “The Dilemma” plays out with every bit of sexism, misogyny and references to guy code that can be expected from a typical Hollywood bromance. The writers who conceived “The Dilemma” have a thin understanding of how men and women react to each other in reality. They also think it’s appropriate for grown men to call electric cars “gay” in a business meeting and get away with it.
Vince Vaughn lends Ronny his usual fun-loving, best-friend-with-a-big-mouth attitude. Charming enough when he’s surrounded by other ridiculous characters, but when he’s the odd man out in a straight man world he just looks silly. Kevin James is loveable but boring, serving no other purpose than to stare wistfully with his small, sad eyes as his costars get to have all of the fun.
The women in this film are shallow interpretations of how guys believe women should behave. Jennifer Connelly plays Beth as the supposed “cool girlfriend”; she’s the kind of girl who wears sports jerseys, kicks your ass in ping pong and doesn’t care if you ever pop the question. Winona Ryder’s portrayal of Geneva embodies all of the traits projected onto women by bitter seventeen-year-olds after their relationships fall through. She is a manipulative, trampy, even psychotic caricature of “that crazy bitch” that every guy has dated at least once, and little is done to properly explain her side of the problem. Even Queen Latifah shows up as a pumped up Chrysler executive, apparently to show women how uncomfortable guys get when women try to act like them. Channing Tatum is the only entertaining aspect of the movie as Zip, the idiotic yet adorably defensive guy with whom Geneva has her affair. Note to the screenwriters; it doesn’t help the message of your film when you make the “bad guy” the only interesting character.
There is nothing funny about “The Dilemma,” but Director Ron Howard handles the serious aspects of his film with appropriate dignity. He successfully crams the film’s underlying message of the importance of honesty into a climactic intervention scene and a misguided anniversary toast, giving the audience something to actually gain from the rest of the debacle. His intentions are good, maybe even personal, but the characters are simply too unlikeable and hard to relate to for the movie to work as a whole. If you ever want to learn how to solve the dilemma in “The Dilemma,” just call Dr. Laura. It will save you an hour and a half.