26 January 2011


Whenever Vince Vaughn seems to be having fun, you know it's going to hurt.
On Monday, we saw that a romantic comedy can be salvaged from mediocrity or outright awfulness by good casting. Today, we see how a romantic comedy that features Jennifer Connelly and Winona Ryder, directed by Ron Howard, can be utterly fucked up by becoming Vince Vaughn-centric.

The Dilemma has a simple plot, or it should, anyway. Ronny is a reformed gambling addict who looks up to his best friend Nick and his wife Geneva. Ronny and Nick are in business together, and they're on the cusp of selling a new engine design to Dodge when Ronny catches Geneva in an affair with another man. His dilemma is in whether or not he should spill the beans to Nick as their deadline with Dodge approaches.

For the sake of full disclosure, let's put the cards on the table early on. I hated The Dilemma. Just about every bit of its stultifying 111 minute running time was offensive to my eyes, ears, brain and face. Even as a self-proclaimed Vince Vaughn detractor, I went in wanting to like this. Even though I'd heard negative reviews, I had heard enough positive things to pique my curiosity about seeing it.

Let's list those positive things then, as seen from where I sat in the cinema. The best thing about The Dilemma is Channing Tatum. Yes, that's Step Up and Dear John star Channing Tatum. That should tell you all you need to know, but to be completely fair to Tatum and to the film, his character was the only one to hit my deprived funny bone all the way through, and he did a fine job of it. Of course, the representation of his character is just one of the many problems of the larger film, but I'd go so far as to say that this is actually his best role, and his best performance.

On the whole though, this is a film about Vince Vaughn. It's not just a principled dislike of Vaughn that makes that a bad thing in this case. He's just the person with the least to like about him, in all of this. His character, Ronny, is in a situation that might at least provoke sympathy, and get viewers asking how they would react in his situation. The problem is that the answer to that question is always going to be "Not like that". He fills that huge running time with a cavalcade of dickery and supposedly good-intentioned slapstick. And worst of all, just so you can tell we're supposed to like him, the characters all take the time out to appreciate how hard all of this has been for him, as though his feelings would be most damaged by the explosion of someone else's marriage.

Who's there to appreciate how hard the events have this film have been for me? Hm? Certainly not Kevin James, who finally joins my shit-list just a little later than he figured on everyone else's. I didn't mind him in Paul Blart- Mall Cop and I missed Grown Ups entirely. Certainly not Winona Ryder and Jennifer Connelly, neither of whom have anything to do as they watch from the sidelines and appear to be monstrous and submissive, respectively. And certainly not Ron Howard, who really, really ought to know better by now.

It's not just the unintentionally funny token appearance of his brother Clint, more famously seen in the movies of Uwe Boll than in anything Ron has to offer. It's the way that this entire film feels like a product fixated upon the white heterosexual male who most often goes to the movies, quantified by box office spreadsheets and charts, rather than a film by an actual human being, least of all Ron Howard. It's hideously white, souped up by manful discussion of cars and sports and other cool stuff that's cool, and it has an ugly passive-agressive homophobic streak. All of this without ever forging an emotional connection. Or even raising a laugh that doesn't involve Channing Tatum.

The Dilemma is a baggy and self-indulgent stinker that's over-directed, over-developed and overdone. And in amongst all of that, most of the jokes fail to land, making it an excruciating watch, especially in the first hour. I'd like to think that it's not just an ingrained hatred of Vince Vaughn that led me to this conclusion, but it's more than enough reason on its own to hate this fucking movie. I never walk out of films at the cinema, but this one drove me close to the edge. Perhaps that surprisingly funny turn by Channing Tatum was calculated to coincide with my endurance breaking, because there's no latching onto anything else in this shite.

The Dilemma is now playing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen The Dilemma, why not share your comments below?

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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