Thursday, 3 February 2011

The Dilemma

2011. Dir: Ron Howard. Starring: Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Winona Ryder, Jennifer Connolly and Queen Latifah. ●●○○○

How do they say it? Dying is easy, comedy is hard. And judging by Ron Howard's latest effort, The Dilemma, comedy is very very hard. Actually I very nearly didn't judge this film in terms of it's comedy as there's only a couple of laughs to be had, then it occurred to me that would be awfully generous, not matter that it would work better as a drama the movie spends most of the time desperately trying to raise a chuckle and consistently fails so that's how it should be measured.

Vince Vaughn plays a salesman who's scored well above his league with top chef Jennifer Connelly. Vaughn's best friend and business partner Kevin James is even more inexplicably married to Winona Ryder, and has been since they were at college. It's no surprise that Ryder's playing it away with heavily tattooed Channing Tatum. Vaughn stumbles upon the two making out at the local tropical garden and then faces the decision of whether to pass this information on.

This has all the makings of a fine farce, with slapstick humour and uncomfortable conversations, and when the film succeeds it's aiming for those ideas. The fight between Vaughn and Tatum has a nice energy and Vaughn's monologue at a wedding anniversary raised a little titter, but most of the jokes fall utterly flat. Signposted and overwrought the one-liners limp into the characters mouths with no perceptible timing or any thought of consistency. Minor characters are introduced in order to create a "funny" situation or make an amusing statement. Queen Latifah in particular seems to have walked out of a completely different movie. In fact the whole section she represents, where the central duo are selling electric engines that vibrate, could have been completely exorcised from the movie without anyone caring.

The bigger issue is the moral quagmire the film seems to lower itself into. All of the central characters are deeply flawed human beings (Vaughn's a recovering gambling addict, James visits prostitutes, Connelly's secretive and patronising) to such an extent tht you don't care who is, or has been, sleeping with whom. It's almost justifible on many counts.

In terms of the performances only Ryder, all spiky and manipulative, and Tatum showing surprising talent for physical comedy come out with any credit. Below the line talent seems perfunctory and Howard does nothing to persuade his critics there's anything close to a competent director here.

Needless to say I regret putting this in my countdown for 2011. Avoid at all costs.

No comments: