Ron Howard talks in the special features about a dinner conversation between himself and producer Brian Glazer. It’s about what they would do if they found out their best friend’s wife was cheating on them. That’s actually how The Dilemma was born, and the chat sounds like fun, full of questions and awkwardness. How is it that none of it transferred to the screen?
We have good leads in Vince Vaughn and Kevin James, the latter portraying the guy with the cheating wife. They work well on screen playing business partners, likeable and energetic. Vaughn has his usual fast talking charm, and James plays the nervous, overly anxious type. They’re good at what they do, and the writing isn’t bad either.
This is a Ron Howard feature though, and it’s like there has to be some kind of heart and soul to his movies. That’s not a bad thing, more movies probably need that too. In this setting though, where Vaughn is falling into poison plants and well executed, difficult, and funny dialogue exchanges are taking place, where does Vaughn’s gambling addiction fit in? It’s doesn’t.
In fact, it’s more of a plot opportunity, existing to create more confusion, more drama, and more forced internal politics. This idea, that of a known cheater in a long-standing relationship, is dramatic. It’s distressing and even depressing… but not in this movie, and certainly not with these people. Vaughn and James can branch out, that’s fine. More power to the both of them. This material, in a movie previewed as a lighthearted farce with two of comedy’s brightest modern stars? It only works if they can be funny.
Don’t take that the wrong way. The comedy pairing is funny. They have chemistry, arguably more so than they have with either of their on-screen girlfriends/wives, and the writing from Allan Loeb has energy to keep the funny rolling. When we’re dealing with gambling addictions and untrustworthy romances, that all grinds to a halt.
Howard takes a basic palette for this one, saturating the primaries slightly, giving those Chicago Blackhawks uniforms all of the boost they need. Flesh tones go with them, a bit hot with a slight red tint. Other colors are nice, bright, and clean, uniform across the board. The look is wholly inoffensive and natural, perfectly suited to this typical comedy.
Detail carries the trend, reproducing some high fidelity facial textures. Close-ups are exquisite, clean, and pure. A fine layer of grain never intrudes on the material, well resolved by this AVC encode. Aerials of Chicago are firm, generally backed by a sunset making the fine lines of the buildings difficult to spot. Environments, from the shop to the homes, are pleasing to the eye.
A general level of softness permeates this transfer, or possibly even the source. It doesn’t seem to prevent much from getting through (i.e., the detail), but also prevents it from ramping up and providing a jaw-dropping visual punch. One of the few scenes that excels is inside the garden, the outstanding plant life pouring from the frame with pitch-perfect dimensionality and definition.
Black levels are a source for many of the problems, never reaching any substantial depth or weight. They flounder in a realm of murky gray, browns, and blue, never capturing any power over the proceedings. If anything, they serve as a distraction. Much of the film takes place at night or inside bars, leading to an overly noticeable lack of presence.
The Dilemma is a film about cheating first and foremost, but it’s also about cars… loud cars. It’s the centerpiece behind the main characters business, and when they rev up, so does the subwoofer. The ending produces an equally prominent rumble, the best one of the lot for sure. The music will kick in too, producing smooth, clean low-end accompaniment where the songs demand it.
It’s also a film of atmosphere, something else this mix likes to toy with. Bar interiors fill the room naturally and cleanly, giving off a clean surround backdrop. Various scenes at Blackhawks games produce the necessary crowd immersion, fans cheering, and players slamming each other into the boards. Dialogue is crisp amongst this DTS-HD effort, and kept at the forefront.
An alternate ending is separate from the 44-minutes of deleted scenes (that including an intro from director Ron Howard), beginning these extras with a flurry of content. A brief gag reel is worth a watch, followed by a making-of titled This is The Dilemma. There’s a small tour of Chicago where you can check out featurettes on the main locations, around 12-minutes total. On Ice looks at the arena shoot, including some fun shots of Howard trying to master a slap shot. BD-Live support remains.