The Dilemma Review
The dirty little secret is a simple yet harmless plot point that just about everyone uses. It can vary from “I’m throwing a huge house party, but I don’t want my parents to know” to “I am literally pretending to be somebody I’m not” or even “I just saw my best friend’s wife cheating on him”. We’ve seen these a million times, but it’s not the secret that draws us to the film; it’s the conflict that it creates and the resolution of the secret that people want to see. If the conflict develops and resolves well, it leaves us with an amusing take on the story; if it doesn’t, then we’re left with a dilemma, or in this case The Dilemma.
Director Ron Howard had the potential to do a lot with the idea as simple as this movie had, but unfortunately there wasn’t a lot done. The result is a painful, boring and even useless take on trying to keep a secret. With actors like Vince Vaughn and Kevin James that give us characters that weren’t any different from the movies we’ve seen before or even as amusing, it just makes the movie even more uninteresting.
The story is pretty simple: Ronny Valentine, played by Vince Vaughn (or is it Vince Vaughn played by Vince Vaughn?), and his good friend and partner Nick Backman (Kevin James) own a company that is trying to make an electric car that looks and feels like a muscle car from the seventies, and they actually struck a deal with Chrysler. Ronny is dating a girl named Beth (Jennifer Connelly) and Nick is married to Geneva (Winona Ryder), and things look great between everyone. Then, as Ronny plans out his proposal to Beth, he sees Geneva cheating on Nick with a sensitive thug named Zip (Channing Tatum). What results is a self-battle about whether or not he should tell Nick and a series of events where he tries to reveal the truth that lead to pretty hurtful results.
Vince Vaughn always plays the same character in every movie: the fast-talking, over-explanatory rambler that somehow manages to keep the same face almost every time. While he tries to be charming with Jennifer Connelly, it’s not that easy to tell because there is no emotion out of him. Winona Ryder’s character shows no sympathetic attributes about her. From the moment we find her cheating, she comes across as a manipulative, selfish, mean woman (there’s a “b” word for that, but I can’t use it). On top of that, her facial expressions are just ridiculous. Her eyes get obnoxiously big, and she uses the wrong expressions on her lips at the wrong times. There’s a part where she asks about Ronny’s face, and she looks like she’s giving a smile after Botox. Kevin James plays the big, nervous guy that everyone loves even though he also goes to Asian massage parlors with “happy endings” behind Geneva’s back. He’s not bad at it, but there’s no reason to show sympathy for him either. He even lies to his best friend when he’s at the parlor, and he happens to be right there the whole time. Queen Latifah’s character as a Chrysler executive trying to help Nick and Ron says some really inappropriate and uncomfortable lines such as talking about “lady-wood” if you know what I mean.
Still, surprisingly, the film’s saving grace lies in Channing Tatum. He plays this tough guy thug who really is a big softie, but the way he portrays it is just really amusing. Sure, it’s not the first time that someone tries to act tough, but Channing Tatum really made it work to the point where it actually was funny. However, there were moments where Ron could have told Nick and resolve everything sooner, but he doesn’t; and so the movie drags on with no development. There were possible moments of running jokes, such as Ronny tripping on poisonous plants and suffering the side effects, but those died off quickly leaving the audience with almost nothing entertaining.
Bottom line: the real dilemma is that this movie is painfully unfunny. The story is simple enough, but nothing develops; the characters aren’t amusing; there’s incredibly little humor; and it just drags on after possibilities of ending it sooner. It’s not a movie worth watching, and it just leaves you really uncomfortable. In fact, it’s movies like this that make movies like Due Date much more fun to watch. If you love Vince Vaughn, stick with Wedding Crashers; in fact, his line “I’m not a wedding counselor” is funny enough knowing he did so much better in Wedding Crashers.
Final Rating: 3 out of 10 – Don’t Go