Universal // 2011 // 112 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // May 12th, 2011
A quandary of epic proportions.
Ron Howard (or as I like to call him, "Steven Spielberg-lite") has fashioned a very popular directing career out of a once thriving acting career. With such hits as Parenthood, A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code under his belt, Howard (along with producing partner Brian Grazer) is seen as one of the highest profile filmmakers toiling in Hollywood today, working in all sorts of genres (thrillers, comedies, dramas and action) and with a cannon of tinsel town's bright stars. Howard's newest film The Dilemma is now available on Blu-ray care of Universal Home Entertainment.
Ronny (Vince Vaughn, Old School) and Beth (Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind) are best friends with Nick (Kevin James, Grown Ups) and his wife, Geneva (Winona Ryder, Mr. Deeds). Ronny and Nick are old school buddies who own a car engine design business in Chicago and now have a shot at the big time, if Nick can pull through with a new engine design that allows for the revving sound of an engine on a battery powered vehicle. Ronny is planning on asking Beth to marry him at a local botanical shelter, but as he surveys the landscape Ronny inadvertently spots Geneva sharing an impassioned kiss with another man (Channing Tatum, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra) that is clearly NOT her husband. Suddenly, Ronny is in a bit of a pickle: does he tell his best friend Nick what he saw, or wait until after Nick is finished working on the deal of a lifetime?
It is...The Dilemma.
The Dilemma is a movie of many personalities. It's comedy. It's a drama. It's a romance. It's a buddy picture. It's a morality play. And it's as if director Ron Howard had no idea what kind of genre he was ultimately working in.
The promotional materials marketed The Dilemma as a slapstick comedy (Look! Vince Vaughn falling into poisonous flowers! Heavy weight superstar Kevin James cutting it up on the dance floor!), but it's not really all that funny of a film. In fact, I have no idea why the filmmakers tried to sell The Dilemma as a goofy little "bro-mance" -- at the core of The Dilemma is the question of loyalty vs. honesty and how one little moment can change your life forever. These are certainly lofty topics for a movie staring one of the Wedding Crashers.
A lot of critics had a real disdain for The Dilemma (currently it has an abysmal 21% on Rotten Tomatoes' reviews aggregator). It probably didn't help that it featured Kevin James, a man not known for quality film work (unless you count Paul Blart: Mall Cop, which I do not) in a movie by Oscar winner Ron Howard. Vince Vaughn, while an amusing character actor, has had a run of just out-and-out terrible movies the past five years (including Fred Claus, Four Christmases and Couples Retreat). Director Ron Howard had just come off the strong one-two punch of directing the thriller Angels & Demons and the critically acclaimed and Oscar nominated Frost/Nixon. Throw into this mix Winona Ryder (whose star had diminished greatly since her run in with shoplifting) and you've got a very odd movie indeed.
Here's the interesting thing: The Dilemma is not a bad movie, per say. Just a very, very flawed one. The simplistic idea behind the film -- if you catch your best friend's wife cheating, what do you do? -- lends itself to many complex stories, ideas and ethical discussions. The Dilemma's biggest problem is it doesn't really tackle any of those ideas during its nearly two hour run time. There are flashes of inspiration during the film, as when Vaughn's character attempts to take charge by capturing on film his best friend's wife's startling infidelities. These moments, however, are few and far between and often obscured by moments of outright slapstick and yelling. Lots and lots of yelling. In fact, there were moments so shrill that it felt as if the screenplay read, "Kevin/Vince/Winona just yell at each other." Vaughn spends an inordinate amount of time red faced and hollering at people, assuming that this will pass as comedy. Kevin James -- the big and tall man's Jim Carrey -- is surprisingly subdued as Nick, who seems to have a hidden dark side only hinted at by the screenwriters but never fully explored. Only Jennifer Connelly comes away with any dignity as Vaughn's patient, levelheaded and attractive girlfriend.
Interestingly, The Dilemma was met with heavy criticism during its promotional run because the trailers featured Vaughn riffing on electric cars and how 'gay' they are. After watching this scene in full, I have to say that I can see why some may have been offended. In this day and age it's just not kosher to use the word 'gay' to slam anyone or anything as a way of saying it is 'weak' or 'uncool', and that's exactly what the point of this entire scene is. While I don't think it's overtly offensive, it just seems ultimately out of place and -- even worse -- really, really unfunny.
I found myself caught up in The Dilemma, even with all of its fatal flaws, scattershot characters, and half-baked ideas. This tells me that somewhere there is a good story to be told. I only wish that Howard and his cast would have put a little more effort into choosing a direction for their film. This could have made a very grandiose, funny slapstick comedy. Or a pensive, engaging drama. Or, maybe even a little bit of both. As it stands, The Dilemma is just that -- a movie I want to recommend but also dismiss. Decisions, decisions...
The Dilemma is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen in 1080p high definition. Shot on location in Chicago, The Dilemma looks great even if you don't have the same feelings about the movie itself. The colors are bright and solid with dark black levels during nighttime scenes. Although far from a reference quality transfer (some scenes just look flat and boring), overall this is an attractive transfer by Universal.
The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio in 5.1 surround and is uniformly excellent. While not an expansive or explosive soundtrack, The Dilemma does boast some great moments of music and ambient noise. The rear and side speakers get a heavy workout whenever the characters attend a hockey game, making this sound mix a living, breathing entity all its own when the need arises. Also included on this disc are French and Spanish soundtracks in 5.1 Surround, as well as English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Considering it was a resounding dud during its theatrical release, The Dilemma features a fair amount of extra material. Fans of the film get an alternate ending (which isn't all that different from the original ending); almost forty-five minutes (!) of deleted scenes with optional commentary by director Ron Howard (all of which deserved the cut); a gag reel; a short, generic EPK promo piece called "This is The Dilemma;" a virtual "Tour Chicago" that includes Garfield Conservatory, The United Center, the Green Mill Bar and Ronny and Beth's apartment; a second featurette title "On Ice" about the scenes at the Blackhawks hockey game; plus some BD Live content.
The Dilemma isn't going down as a great movie, but it's worth a look for Ron Howard or Vince Vaughn fans -- just make sure to lower your expectations. Universal's work on this disc is almost top notch, so at least you'll be getting a pretty picture and a wonderful soundtrack.
The Dilemma goes both ways, and neither of them work.
Review content copyright © 2011 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (French)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 112 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Alternate Ending
* Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reel
* Cinema Verdict Review