It’s patchy but funny: The Dilemma

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It may have been hacked to death by some critics, but this Vince Vaughn comedy from Ron Howard isn’t terrible. I know that isn’t a great recommendation, and it is true that the film could do with a script tidy-up, but the overall feel of the thing sometimes wanders towards the ‘ooo, this is quite interesting’ side of comedy rather than the ‘that’s sick and unfunny, let’s leave’ tent that Judd Apatow occupies.

Vaughn and Kevin James play best buddies. Their partners are also friends, and they all regularly have dinners and visit sports games together. Vaughn’s woman is Jennifer Connelly. They are not married, but he’s thinking of proposing in the foreseeable future. He does have a history of gambling addiction, but that’s all behind him now. He’s fine. Well, he is until he discovers James’s wife Winona Ryder is having a steamy affair with Channing Tatum. What to do? This dilemma eats away at him, and in a foolish move decides to enter into some kind of hell-cat war with Ryder, who threatens to tell James than Vaughn made a pass at her (which he did not) if he so much as whispers about her current antics with the boy from Step Up.

As he did with his Dan Brown adaptations, Ron Howard somehow manages to turn something very silly into a surprisingly compelling popcorn flick. Don’t get the wrong idea – this is in no way a comedy classic, or a work of art. But there’s something guiltily beguiling about it all, and Winona Ryder is wonderfully bonkers as the unfaithful wife of the unassuming Kevin James. Jennifer Connelly acts as though she’s put her Oscar in the safe and thrown away the key, though to be fair the script gives her a rather thankless job of suspecting her husband of having relapsed into his old gambling ways.

There are a handful of intended laugh moments that really don’t work. Vaughn, while pitching for a new idea to a car manufacturer with James, opens his presentation with the line ‘Electric cars – they’re so gay’. Ill-judged at best, offensive at worst, it is a shame Hollywood is joining in with the playground bigots who use the word ‘gay’ to mean undesirable or nasty. There is also a very awkward scene where Vaughn makes a toast at Connelly’s parents’ anniversary party about the importance of truth in a relationship. The guests at the dinner party squirm with embarrassment – and so do we. It’s a potentially hilarious scene that fails rather pathetically.

Channing Tatum is a bit of light relief as Ryder’s unpredictable though emotional bit of rough, and manages to turn such a preposterous line as ‘You killed my fish’ into something rather amusing. Overall, it’s a patchy affair (no pun intended), but there is weaker fluff of this nature to be had, and Howard keeps the entertainment up in his usual glossy, though ridiculous, style. It won’t rock your world, but it will probably make you smile. And sometimes that’s all you need.

6/10

Good: It’s funny, shiny and the cast (mostly) sparkle.

Bad: Some moments cause awkward audience silences where there should be screams of laughter.

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Second year BA Film & English Student. Watches too many films and enjoys good novels.

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