Kevin James and Vince Vaughn are college buddies and co-workers in a start-up that engineers engines they pray will be mass-produced by Detroit. Twenty years ago, James married his undergrad sweetheart Winona Ryder while Vaughn set himself to carousing. All parties are now old enough that when Ryder says Vaughn has gone through every one of her single friends, she’s serious. The couple is Vaughn’s model of monogamy—he even uses the word “hero”—so he’s stricken when on the cusp of his own proposal to Jennifer Connolly, he spies Ryder dry-humping Channing Tatum.
To tell or not to tell is the question, but more interesting is: can you ever really know someone? That debate opens the flick and takes an interesting turn when Ryder defends herself against Vaughn’s quiet blackmail by whispering that he has no idea that James visits a massage parlor every week for a quick wank. Given the most attention, however, is the humiliation of the snooping, sanctimonious Vaughn, who is poxed with boils and bruises and even unmanned by Queen Latifah in a curious cameo as a car executive who thinks with her “lady boner.”
It’s uncertain how director Ron Howard planned to meld sentiment and slapstick. That humor exists only in France, a country that winks at adultery, and Eastern Europe, where comedies take it as a given that no matter what, we’re all going to die. Yankee studio executives drive a wedge between the folly of existence and a punch to the nuts. Never the twain shall meet, except in Jackass 3D. To balance the score, The Dilemma ends with 20 minutes of apologies, a round robin of regret that downshifts the film’s sputtering energy into park.