Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: Zac Efron Talks About His Masturbation Techniques In 'The Interview' Segment With James Franco Watch: Zac Efron Talks About His Masturbation Techniques In 'The Interview' Segment With James Franco First Look Images: Patrick Stewart As A Neo-Nazi In 'Blue Ruin' Director Jeremy Saulnier's 'Green Room' & More First Look Images: Patrick Stewart As A Neo-Nazi In 'Blue Ruin' Director Jeremy Saulnier's 'Green Room' & More Watch: Footage From "Sick," Unreleased Marilyn Manson Video, Directed By Eli Roth & Featuring Lana Del Rey Watch: Footage From "Sick," Unreleased Marilyn Manson Video, Directed By Eli Roth & Featuring Lana Del Rey R.I.P. Mike Nichols (1931-2014) R.I.P. Mike Nichols (1931-2014) Christopher Nolan Talks 'Interstellar' Twist And Enigmatic Ending Christopher Nolan Talks 'Interstellar' Twist And Enigmatic Ending Watch: Al Pacino Plays An Aging Rocker Transformed By John Lennon In First Trailer For ‘Danny Collins’ Watch: Al Pacino Plays An Aging Rocker Transformed By John Lennon In First Trailer For ‘Danny Collins’ Review: 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1' Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Philip Seymour Hoffman, And More Review: 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1' Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Philip Seymour Hoffman, And More Chloe Moretz, Elle Fanning & Hailee Steinfeld Eyed To Play Jean Grey In 'X-Men: Apocalypse' And More Chloe Moretz, Elle Fanning & Hailee Steinfeld Eyed To Play Jean Grey In 'X-Men: Apocalypse' And More Steve McQueen's Next Film Will Be About Paul Robeson Steve McQueen's Next Film Will Be About Paul Robeson Watch: First Trailer For 'The Age Of Adaline' Starring Blake Lively, Ellen Burstyn And Harrison Ford Watch: First Trailer For 'The Age Of Adaline' Starring Blake Lively, Ellen Burstyn And Harrison Ford Listen Up, Christopher Nolan Defends Sound Mix On 'Interstellar' Listen Up, Christopher Nolan Defends Sound Mix On 'Interstellar' Review: Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar' Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway & More Review: Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar' Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway & More 'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies' Will Conclude With A 45-Minute Battle Sequence 'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies' Will Conclude With A 45-Minute Battle Sequence Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Review: 'The Dilemma' Chooses Wacky Hijinks Over Intelligent Comedy

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist January 12, 2011 at 3:07AM

Overrated screenwriter Allan Loeb is curiously one of the most in-demand writers in Hollywood right now, and we're beginning to understand why. His screenplays tend to sell high-concept work which makes executives and producers feel good about themselves, but the actual execution undermines whatever originality and vigor the original premise may have had, keeping things safe for mainstream audiences to embrace without thinking too much, which makes studio heads happy. But if you look closer, Allan Loeb seems to be writing the same script over and over with entire plots hanging on one character struggling to tell somebody the secret he's holding. Exhibit 1: "The Switch" spent nearly half its running time with Jason Bateman agonizing over whether or not to tell Jennifer Aniston that it's actually his sperm she used to have a child. Exhibit 2: In "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" Shia LaBeouf could have avoided a world of hurt he had just been honest with his girlfriend, Carey Mulligan, about what he was doing with her Dad. Which brings us to Exhibit 3: "The Dilemma." Once again, a character grapples for the majority of the film's running time with a should I?/shouldn't I? situation, in this case it's whether or not to tell his best friend that his wife is cheating on him. Yes, "The Dilemma" is another one of those movies where you're going to wait for somebody to stop acting like an idiot and do what most normal people would do without hesitation. It's pretty painful.
0


Overrated screenwriter Allan Loeb is curiously one of the most in-demand writers in Hollywood right now, and we're beginning to understand why. His screenplays tend to sell high-concept work which makes executives and producers feel good about themselves, but the actual execution undermines whatever originality and vigor the original premise may have had, keeping things safe for mainstream audiences to embrace without thinking too much, which makes studio heads happy. But if you look closer, Allan Loeb seems to be writing the same script over and over with entire plots hanging on one character struggling to tell somebody the secret he's holding. Exhibit 1: "The Switch" spent nearly half its running time with Jason Bateman agonizing over whether or not to tell Jennifer Aniston that it's actually his sperm she used to have a child. Exhibit 2: In "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" Shia LaBeouf could have avoided a world of hurt he had just been honest with his girlfriend, Carey Mulligan, about what he was doing with her Dad. Which brings us to Exhibit 3: "The Dilemma." Once again, a character grapples for the majority of the film's running time with a should I?/shouldn't I? situation, in this case it's whether or not to tell his best friend that his wife is cheating on him. Yes, "The Dilemma" is another one of those movies where you're going to wait for somebody to stop acting like an idiot and do what most normal people would do without hesitation. It's pretty painful.

Ronny Valentine (Vince Vaughn) and Nick Brennan (Kevin James) are best friends who run a business developing environmentally friendly engines for cars and when the film opens, they're having dinner with their respective partners: girlfriend and chef Beth (Jennifer Connelly) and wife Geneva (Winona Ryder; apparently she doesn't work). In a grating opening scene -- one of many that drives the thematic thrust of the film like a sledgehammer over your head -- the couples discuss how long it takes to get to really know somebody. Hmm....is it possible that maybe they don't know each other as well as they think they do? Guess we'll just have to wait and see.


Ok, so the wait isn't that long, and as you already know from the trailers, Ronny finds out that Geneva is cheating on Nick with the much younger, more tattooed and more ripped Zip (Channing Tatum). Seems the obvious thing here is for Ronny to tell Nick right? Well, Allan Loeb reaches into his old tool bag and throws a couple of obstacles in his way. First, Nick has an ulcer that is bleeding profusely due to stress as he tries to perfect an engine they are looking to sell to Dodge on a tight deadline (Queen Latifah is their project supervisor; if you've see the "Lady Wood" joke in the trailer, you've pretty much seen her entire performance). Ronny then tries to threaten Geneva into coming clean, however she has another secret of her own (which we won't spoil here) that she threatens to spill if Nick finds out what she's up to.

You see the clever trick here? The film is sold as an infidelity comedy but Loeb manages to turn it into a Vince Vaughn-gets-into-increasingly-wackier-situations vehicle as he tries expose the affair, save his business and oh yeah, propose to his girlfriend. It's too bad because in the background of these characters are some real meaty issues that if handled properly could've add some heft to the proceedings. It turns out Ronny is a former gambling addict whose relapse two years ago nearly derailed things with Beth. Geneva reveals some dirt on Nick that makes her transgressions a bit more understandable given the situation. And even Beth has her own lingering trust issues that prevent her relationship with Ronny moving forward. But Loeb and director Ron Howard not only keep this stuff in the background, whenever it does crop up and seems like it will be legitimately explored, a lame gag usually follows to keep the proceedings light; in essence the film has a script that's afraid of itself.

We can't say the performers are too much at fault here as the material they're given to work with is tonally inconsistent. Vince Vaughn can sleepwalk through this kind of movies, doing a riff on his "Swingers" character from those halcyon days long-gone with increasingly diminished returns (though he gives a toast here that for a brief moment recalls Beanie from "Old School" -- if only). Kevin James, as the victim in all this, shows a bit of depth but not much more than the "serious moments" of his long-running sitcom "The King Of Queens"; we're also asked to buy into him being an engine builder nerd type which never quite sells. Jennifer Connelly is barely present so no surprise that Jennifer Garner, formerly slotted in the part, moved on. If there are any highlights in the film, they belong to Winona Ryder and Channing Tatum. The former turns in a fine performance in what is easily the most difficult character of the bunch: the one engaging in the affair. It's lot a more nuanced than a film like this deserves and the tense confrontation scene she shares in a diner with Vince Vaughn is a solitary bright light in the picture; it's too bad her chops are wasted. Meanwhile, Tatum is pretty funny as Zip, the tweaked out, oddly sensitive and somewhat manipulative chilled bro. He's wild and manic and frankly, unlike anything we've seen him in before and it's a pleasant surprise. Oh yeah, and it should be noted: the"electric cars are gay" scene? The sequence got some of the biggest laughs of the entire film from the audience we were with. Sorry GLAAD.

When it's all said and done, "The Dilemma" never really wants to face any of the myriad relationship issues and themes it throws around while masquerading as an intelligent adult comedy. As the film nears the finish line, it quickly becomes apparent that Loeb doesn't really want to deal with Nick and Geneva's relationship at all (she exits the film rather unceremoniously and Nick never takes ownership for his own issues that may have driven her away) and the focus re-orients on the bromance between Ronny and Nick, with a loud revving engine serving as an indicator of their testosterone-based friendship (no, we're not joking; the film's most emotional moment is a loud motor). We're not sure what drew Ron Howard to the material but all through the film we kept thinking this is territory that Judd Apatow would have have nailed, delivering both a quantity of laughs this film was sorely lacking, and dramatic moments organically born and honestly felt. There is really no dilemma here if you're headed to the movies this weekend: save yourself two hours and avoid this one. [C-]

This article is related to: Films, Actors, Actresses, Review, Ron Howard, The Dilemma, Channing Tatum, Kevin James, Vince Vaughn, Winona Ryder


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates