Director Ron Howard and actor Vince Vaughn appear to be an odd pairing. The first is known for his dramatic films like A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man and Frost/Nixon. Vince Vaughn plays anything-but-serious roles in Couples Retreat, Zoolander and Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. For the Oscar award winning Howard, The Dilemma seems like the big deviation from his established path.
The film may have been a step up from the screwball comedy I expected but then I wasn’t anticipating much. And it was just a baby step better than I predicted.
In the story, Ronny Valentine (Vince Vaughn) is in a predicament. While scouting out the perfect location to propose to his girlfriend Beth (Jennifer Connelly), he stumbles upon the wife of his best friend in a lip lock with another man. When he finally confronts Geneva (Winona Ryder) about her infidelity with the tattoo-covered Zip (Channing Tatum), she cautions him about judging what happens behind closed doors with her and her husband Nick (Kevin James).
Adding to the dilemma, Ronny and Nick are right in the middle of preparing for a huge presentation on a new engine component to the Chrysler auto company. Huddled over a car motor, Nick is absorbed in his work and doesn’t have time when Ronny comes into the workshop for a personal discussion. In the meantime, Geneva begs her accuser to let things be until after the project is finished.
Talked into keeping the secret a little longer, Ronny still wants to make sure he has the evidence he needs. Buying a camera, he climbs onto Zip’s balcony where he takes pictures of Geneva and her lover in various stages of undress and embrace. After discovering the Peeping Tom, Zip, who is high on drugs, attacks Ronny and his classic muscle car with a baseball bat. Later he threatens the cameraman with a gun.
Ronny, however, hardly has a pristine past when it comes to truthfulness, so making him the Honesty Cop seems like a big stretch. When the former gambling addict becomes increasingly evasive around his girlfriend and Nick, the two begin to worry the reforming bettor has relapsed. And once assumptions are made, it is easy to find proof to support them.
Though the production presents plenty of worthwhile questions about coming clean, the answers don’t come as easily from this cast of well-known comedians. Their characters frequently engage in juvenile fistfights, stealth surveillance tactics and sexually verbal dialogue. The lack of justification for many of their actions and a double standard for men and women also make it hard to feel sympathy for the choices they make. Even their good intentions are debatable when a friendly intervention proves to be much more revealing than anyone anticipated.
Unfortunately what could have been an entertaining script ends up fumbling on several fronts. Everyone in the story has a different opinion on honesty and whether or not it is the best policy. But for many potential viewers, the frequent profanities, female buttock nudity and some crude sexual content will cause another dilemma—to go or not to go.