Howard’s end: A truly troubled ‘Dilemma’

I will allow you a pass this time, Ron Howard. But don’t ever do this again.

‘The Dilemma’ stars Vince Vaughn as every other Vince Vaughn-like character we have come to expect on screen. Kevin James co-stars as a Kevin James-like character, only far less funnier than you would expect.

Vince catches Kevin’s wife (played by Winona Ryder) cheating, and frets over telling him. That’s it. For two hours, that’s it. It’s an admittedly flimsy premise on which to base a film, but there is certainly a kernel of something interesting to be found in honor codes with friends and commitments to marriage.

Typically, I blame marketers for fouling up our expectations of films, promising one thing and delivering yet another. But I honestly feel they did the best they could with this misguided atrocity. The humor, what little there is, is half-hearted at best. Vaughn, so electric when he first shot on the screen in “Swingers” has been spinning his wheels in the same muddy ditch for the better part of the decade (seriously, is there any negligible variation of his character here and the one in “Four Christmases,” “Couples Retreat,” “Fred Claus” or “The Wedding Crashers”?).

“Dilemma” attempts to claw deeper at relationships, with miserable results. It tosses out half-hearted sentiments on love and commitment, while simultaneously failing to commit to any particular narrative pattern or rhythm. “The Dilemma’s” disheveled structure is even more disheartening with Howard at the wheel. The director knows how to construct a film. Even his disasters (“The DaVinci Code,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”) have a polish to them. But his relationship-driven films have possessed a strength that felt grounded in authenticity.

Even Vaughn’s misunderstood “The Break-Up” had its icy heart in the right place.

Not so, with “Dilemma.” there’s not a character or conversation that rings true. This is mostly due to its own indecision. It weakly stretches out its palsied hands for comedy and drama, but ultimately grabs neither. Howard, who has spent his entire life in comedy, both broad and biting, should have a better grip than that.

If you feel the urge to see, instead rent: “Arrested Development,” “Parenthood,” “Swingers”

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