I almost didn’t go see this movie for three reasons: it was getting panned by Rotten Tomatoes (somewhere in the 20 percent’s when I checked, which is just shy of worst movie of the year numbers); acting opposite my boy Vince Vaughn was not Jon Favreau as I had thought from a half-watched preview but Paul Blart, Mall Cop; and the rating was PG-13. However. It had three arguments in its favor, and those proved to be stronger than the negatives–Ron Howard directed, I have yet to not be entertained by Vince Vaughn no matter how ridiculous the movie around him, and we are in that empty January stretch after all the good movies from December have been seen and before all the Academy nominees get wide-released for those who didn’t get them over the holidays.
And after seeing this film, I think that, as the positive arguments for seeing this movie won out, so too do the positive aspects of The Dilemma outweigh the negatives. I mean, it’s not breaking any records of hilarity, but it was solidly entertaining and didn’t seem to be playing to the lowest common denominator.
The premise is actually something I think any twenty- or thirty-something can relate to: what do you do when you find out your best friend’s spouse is cheating? The sub-plot of wondering how you know when it’s time to marry someone is also a question anyone who’s been in a long-term relationship has asked. In that sense, despite the rating that would let teenagers in, this isn’t really a movie for teenagers; it’s a comedy/romantic comedy/bro-mance for people who are out of the drama of high school and college and simply living life, and younger audiences might find it topically funny but probably wouldn’t connect to these characters and their situations the way someone who’s in that same place in life will.
The humor was a mix of physical comedy, situational irony, and Vince Vaughn’s usual chatterbox monologues, and I thought the various parts balanced each other pretty well. For the most part I found it chuckle-worthy rather than laugh-out-loud funny, but there were a couple places that just got me, when I couldn’t stop laughing. One was the reference to the old war movies–you’ll know it when you see it, and describing it further would ruin one of the better aspects of the movie, namely the disillusionment of finding out even your closest friend is not entirely truthful with you. Another is the very end, which was just a golden scene.
I thought the acting was solid. Vince Vaughn wasn’t stretching himself here, but he’s always funny to me even just doing what he’s been doing since Swingers. I felt like Winona Ryder and Jennifer Connelly were both believable 30-something women, each with her own desperations, and Kevin James did a fine job of keeping up with Vaughn by being the one to anchor the duo instead of being the one going over the top himself. Channing Tatum was pretty hilarious here, and showed no traces of the old teen movie hunk he used to be–and was, the last time I saw him, so thumbs up to him for growing up (whenever it happened).
Probably my biggest complaint about the movie was its ultimate predictability; the set-ups are obvious, and nothing that happens will take you by surprise. The opening 10-12 minutes, leading up to Vaughn’s witnessing of the infidelity, are kind of painful as well, but once the real plot gets going the movie picks up. A secondary complaint that may not be shared by everyone is the fact that Vince Vaughn’s character won’t tell his girlfriend what is going on. I guess I’m just too Marshall-and-Lily, but that is the first person I tell, probably even before the friend affected, so to me that felt like an artificial omission aimed at creating drama between them. I do realize that I might be an exception to the rule on that point, though, so it’s a criticism from me that may not bear weight for anyone else.
Again, this movie is not the funniest movie since Tropic Thunder, but it is a solid January comedy with more reasons to like it than not. Even if you don’t walk out of seeing it loving it, I don’t think you’ll feel like you wasted the last two hours if your aim was to go to a popcorn movie and be entertained.
Elena Nola is the imperial movie critic and the colder half of the Ladies of Ice and Fire.