In “The Dilemma,” the latest from director Ron Howard, Vince Vaughn and Kevin James star as car designers trying create a new, sporty hybrid automobile. It’s a fitting job for them as the movie is kind of a hybrid itself, two parts screwball comedy to one part drama.
Vaughn and James are Ronny and Nick, best friends and business partners who relate to one another mostly by speaking in football metaphors. By day they work together, creating a new hybrid car for Dodge; at night (in the beginning of the movie anyway) they and their significant others, girlfriend Beth (Jennifer Connelly) and wife Geneva (Winona Ryder), hang out, tight as peas in a pod. Everything changes one day, however, when Ronny sees Geneva kissing another man, the muscle-bound stud Zip (Channing Tatum). Enter the dilemma. Does he tell his best friend that his wife is having an affair and risk ruining their marriage and adding stress to Nick’s life when they are on the cusp of the biggest business deal of their careers?
At the heart of “The Dilemma” is Vince Vaughn, once the charming actor of “Swingers” and a series of comedies like “Wedding Crashers,” now a one-trick-pony who relies a bit too heavily on his uncanny ability to string together long uninterrupted phrases of hip back talk. It was funny in 2005, amusing in 2007 and has now worn out its welcome. What happened to the actor capable of interesting work in movies like “Into the Wild”? He’s become guilty of recycling the same character from movie to movie with only small variations.
Here he plays a self-centered meddler who sticks his nose where it doesn’t belong. Sure there are a few laughs — and only a few — along the way, but they come with a been-there-done-that feeling of déjà Vaughn.
Otherwise it’s an adult sit-com whose idea of humor is to have the stocky Kevin James deliver lines like, “Love can be very filling, like a warm stew.” The serious stuff, and there’s more than you would expect in a movie marketed as a comedy, doesn’t really ring true, but at least Jennifer Connelly brings an air of authenticity to the relationship end of her story.
Most of “The Dilemma’s” best moments are in the trailer, a two-minute synopsis of the story, which benefits from the lack of Vaughn’s motor-mouth riffing. Come to think of it, the entire movie could have benefitted from less Vaughn and more jokes.