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The Dilemma: How to make a movie without a script

Vince Vaughn, right, and Kevin James in a scene from "The Dilemma"

Chuck Hodes/AP

1 out of 4 stars


Guy has best friend. Guy sees best friend's wife making out with young hunk. Should guy tell best friend? Sorry, but despite what you may have seen in the lame trailer, that's not the real dilemma in The Dilemma. Nope, the far more puzzling question is: Since this emaciated premise is the entirety of the script, where the hell is the movie?

Not that director Ron Howard seems remotely worried by such a teensy absence. A brave fellow, that Ron. So eager to make a comedy again, he intrepidly ventures forth without the assist of anything funny, and plunges headlong into the void. Helping him in the freefall is Vince Vaughn. That would be the guy with the dilemma. Now the guy has a girlfriend he loves. That would be Jennifer Connelly.

But, bromances being what they are, he loves his best friend even more - Kevin James, the chubby one with the unlikely yet ostensibly happy marriage to his slim wife. That would be Winona Ryder.

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Wait, let me briefly press the pause button here to pose another puzzler: Why, in these early scenes and throughout, does Howard light and shoot his two starring actresses so damned unflatteringly? All dark shadows and acute angles, Winona in particular gets an especially rough ride from his cruel lens, even though she's supposed to be all fetching and sexy. Dunno. Just asking. But it's passing strange.

Anyway, much like a movie without a script, I digress. And digress again to point out that Vince and Kevin are partners in a company that is pitching this bright idea to Chrysler: an electric engine that, in lieu of running quietly, roars like a muscle car. Think of it as the Loud Green Movement. Alternatively, it serves even better to describe every overhyped vehicle coming off the Hollywood assembly line - no gas but much noise.

Back to the dilemma, and the cheating Winona's aforementioned young hunk. That would be Zip. Yes, Zip. He's brawny lad with an impressive six-pack, a mess of tattoos, and an unaccountable tendency to break into tears at the drop of a backward-worn baseball hat. In short, Zip looks like a muscle car but snivels like an electric motor. And that's about as funny as things get.

Over to Vince who, unwilling to break Kevin's heart directly, decides to confront Winona. Still looking bad but sounding quite reasonable, Winona tells him: "You do not know what goes on behind the curtain of a marriage." What's more, she adds that Kevin is a regular frequenter of tawdry massage parlours, a revelation that appears to upset Vince a whole lot more than her. Hey, bromances being what they are, Vince's sharp pang of disappointment might have been worth pursuing but, Ron Howard being who he is, not a chance.

Instead, the plunge continues, from one clumsily executed set-piece to another - here a big brawl, there an anniversary party, on to a PowerPoint presentation, then a group intervention. At all of these stops, spurred on by mounting evidence that the flick bypassed the script stage, Vince is encouraged to improvise, which, erring on the side of generosity, he does to self-indulgent excess.

That isn't to say all of his adlibs fall short. Actually, his best comes near the end: "I don't ever want to put you through anything like this ever again."

Such a kind promise but - and here's our last puzzler - can he possibly keep it?

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The Dilemma

  • Directed by Ron Howard
  • Written by Allan Loeb
  • Starring Vince Vaughn and Kevin James

Classification: PG

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