The Dilemma: The Agony Of Choice
Vince Vaughn stars as Ronny, a car engine salesman who seems to have everything. He’s got a job he loves with Nick, his best friend from college (Kevin James) and a beautiful girlfriend (Jennifer Connelly). But when he catches Nick’s wife Geneva (Winona Ryder) with another man (Channing Tatum), he faces the tricky choice of telling him knowing that this knowledge could jeopardise a forthcoming career-making business deal.
It’s a simple premise – obviously Ronny’s going to tell Nick at some point, it’s just a matter of when and how. But the real mystery is Ron Howard’s indecision over whether to shoot this as a comedy or a drama – it veers drunkenly between exploring its characters feelings and lamentable slapstick. As a result Howard’s vacillation leads to a drama with no meat on its bones and a comedy with laughs spread thinner than a bald man’s comb-over. The leaps between tone are also frequently jarring making it impossible to settle into a comfortable groove.
Vince Vaughn has made his name playing pig-headed but ultimately likable protagonists but here he’s so boneheadedly stupid that it’s hard to have any sympathy or affection for him. There’s a line between lying to your girlfriend and breaking and entering. This would be fine in an all-out farce but for a film which expects us to take its drama seriously, it falls woefully flat.
None of the film’s relationships are convincing despite a 20 minute preamble entirely created to show how much in love Ronny and Beth are. If that’s the case, it’s impossible to believe that he wouldn’t just tell her about his problems rather than making up ridiculous excuses for his odd behaviour.
This is amplified by characters that have no dialogue; they merely make speech after speech after speech about love, friendship and honesty, all the while boring the pants off the audience. It also seems preoccupied with asserting its own masculinity. Concerned that talking about feelings might be seen as a bit effeminate (after all “real men” don’t talk about emotions), it overcompensates with endless sports metaphors (typical of any Vince Vaughn film – yeah we get it Vince, you like sports and you’re not gay), woeful slapstick and bouts of sporadic violence.
It also features some of the most gratuitous product placement since Transformers or for that matter Couples Retreat (also starring Vince Vaughn and Kevin James and which contained an entire 10 minute advert for Guitar Hero in its midst). Ronny and Nick are trying to secure a business deal with Dodge so cue shot after shot of cars, revving engines and worst of all an explanation of how Dodge is still relevant in today’s modern world. This shameless sponsorship is frequently laughable and further undermines any sense of reality.
The result is a movie that’s more frustrating than endearing and with a length that sees it become tedious even before the halfway point. If your dilemma is whether to see this movie or stay home, let me solve it for you immediately – put the kettle on.