The Dilemma
Vaughn and James stand side-by-side, wearing tie-less dress shirts and blazers.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRon Howard
Written byAllan Loeb
Produced by
CinematographySalvatore Totino
Edited by
Music by
Distributed byUniversal Pictures[1]
Release date
  • January 14, 2011 (2011-01-14)
Running time
118 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States[1]
Budget$70 million[3]
Box office$69.7 million[3]

The Dilemma is a 2011 American comedy-drama film directed by Ron Howard, written by Allan Loeb and starring Vince Vaughn and Kevin James.[4] The film follows savvy businessman Ronny (Vaughn) and genius engineer Nick (James), who are best friends and partners in an auto design firm. They are pursuing a project to make their firm famous. Ronny sees Nick's wife Geneva (Winona Ryder) kissing another man (Channing Tatum). Ronny seeks out answers and has to figure out how to tell Nick about what he saw while working with him to complete their critical presentation.[5]

It was filmed entirely in the Chicago metropolitan area. The Dilemma was released by Universal Pictures in the United States and Canada on January 14, 2011, to poor reviews and performed poorly at the box office, failing to recoup its $70 million production budget.


Ronny and Nick are best friends and partners in a small auto design firm in Chicago. Ronny is in a long-term relationship with his girlfriend Beth while Nick is married to Geneva. The two have recently been given an opportunity to pitch an eco friendly car to Dodge.

While at a botanical gardens planning a way to propose marriage to Beth, Ronny sees Geneva kissing a man named Zip. He comes home upset, but lies to Beth about the reason, causing her to worry that the stress of work has caused a recurrence of Ronny's gambling addiction.

Ronny makes up his mind to inform Nick about Geneva's infidelity, but puts it off after Nick expresses stress about their work. He meets with Geneva during a Blackhawks game, who promises that the affair is over and that she will tell Nick as soon as the big project is finished. Ronny subsequently discovers her and Zip continuing their relationship. Geneva then threatens to accuse Ronny of hitting on her and tell Nick about a fling they had had back in college.

When Ronny follows Geneva to Zip's house, he photographs the two of them together, but he is trapped on the patio by a group of skateboarders and is unable to escape. Once Geneva leaves, Ronny is caught by Zip and the two engage in a physical confrontation. In spite of this, Ronny eventually makes it to Beth's parents' 40th wedding anniversary party.

Ronny's increasingly erratic behavior leads his friends to think that he has begun gambling again. They hold an intervention for him but Ronny explains the truth behind his actions and Geneva admits to the affair and Ronny admits to the fling with Geneva. While Nick is upset about both, he eventually forgives Ronny and separates from Geneva for her affair with Zip. Later, Nick and Ronny have their design accepted by Dodge; and Ronny proposes to Beth.


In addition to his brother Clint, the director's father, actor Rance Howard, appears in the film.


The Dilemma is directed by Ron Howard and written by Allan Loeb. The film was Howard's first comedy film since he directed How the Grinch Stole Christmas in 2000. The film was first announced in January 2010 as an untitled project when actor Vince Vaughn signed on for a starring role. The premise was conceived by producer Brian Grazer, Howard's production partner at Imagine Entertainment; Loeb wrote the script.[6] Actor Kevin James was cast alongside Vaughn in February.[7] The film continues "Vaughn's interest in tackling the dark areas of relationships", following The Break-Up (2006) and Couples Retreat (2009). The darker moments of the latter film were omitted from the final edit.[6]

With a budget of $70 million,[8] filming took place entirely in Chicago, Illinois, from late May 2010 to mid-August 2010.[9] The film, which was called Cheaters and What You Don't Know during production, was ultimately titled The Dilemma by Universal.[10]

Language in advertising

When Universal released the trailer for The Dilemma, the studio drew complaints about the pejorative use of "gay" in Vaughn's line in the trailer's opening scene, "Electric cars are gay. I mean, not homosexual gay, but my-parents-are-chaperoning-the-dance gay." Universal said it contacted the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) about the line before the trailer was released, and GLAAD said the step indicated the studio knew the line was problematic. Universal received complaints when the trailer appeared online before in theaters, and the studio sought to work with GLAAD to prepare a new trailer.

Before action was taken, the line was first publicly criticized by journalist Anderson Cooper in a story about gay bullying on his show Anderson Cooper 360°. Universal and GLAAD disputed each other's actions toward remedy, and GLAAD requested for the trailer to be removed and for the line to be removed from the film itself. Ultimately, the studio released a new trailer without the offending line.[11] Universal deferred to Howard, who had final cut privilege, to decide about removing the line from the film, and the director chose to keep it.

Howard supported the removal of the line from advertising, but he justified his decision to keep it in the film, saying, "If storytellers, comedians, actors and artists are strong-armed into making creative changes, it will endanger comedy as both entertainment and a provoker of thought."[12]


Theatrical run

The Dilemma had its world premiere in Chicago on January 6, 2011.[13] The film was commercially released in 2,940 theaters in the United States and Canada on January 14, 2011. It grossed a four-day total of $20.5 million over the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday weekend, ranking second at the box office after fellow opener The Green Hornet.[3] Prior to The Dilemma's release, Variety reported that with The Green Hornet attracting young people, The Dilemma was expected to serve as counterprogramming, attracting people 25 years old and up. Universal had expected the film to gross in the mid-teen millions.[14] Exit polling showed that 60% of the audience was female and that 58% were 30 years old and older.[15][16] While adult audiences generally shy away from films' opening weekends, The Dilemma performed above the studio's expectations. The Dilemma also opened in four territories outside the United States and Canada, grossing $1.8 million. The film's opening in Australia grossed $1.4 million despite floods in Queensland and in Victoria affecting 14% of the area's theaters.[17]

The Dilemma's opening was a relative low for the film's stars. Vaughn's previous films Couples Retreat (2009) and Four Christmases (2008) grossed twice The Dilemma's amount on their opening weekends. James had appeared in Grown Ups (2010) and Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009), both of which also had stronger openings. According to Box Office Mojo, The Dilemma was weakly advertised, especially compared to The Green Hornet. It reported, "Blink-and-you-miss-them television ads failed to convey the premise or provide laughs. Dilemma's premise of a man learning his friend's wife is cheating and debating whether to tell the friend or not wasn't much of a dilemma, and it wasn't as comedically charged as Vaughn's other relationship comedies."[15]

The film grossed $48.5 million in the United States and Canada and $21.2 million in other territories for a worldwide gross of $69.7 million.[3]

Critical response

Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 24% based on 163 reviews, with an average rating of 4.4/10. The site's consensus states: "It boasts a likable cast and an interesting premise, but The Dilemma can't decide what to do with them; the result is an uneven blend of cheesy slapstick and surprisingly dark comedy."[18] Metacritic gives the film a score of 46 out of 100, based on 32 critics, "mixed or average reviews".[19] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade B on a scale from A+ to F.[20]

Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times wrote: "What The Dilemma ultimately does best is create a platform for Vaughn to drag that iconic character of his into full-blown adulthood."[21] Justin Chang of Variety wrote: "Not a particularly funny movie. Indeed, the true dilemma of this misguided seriocomedy lies in the filmmakers' confusion as to whether they're making a side-splitting bromance (nope) or an unsparing, warts-and-all look at screwed-up relationships (sort of)."[22] David Edelstein of New York magazine wrote: "Perhaps the late Blake Edwards could have found a balance between slapstick and psychodrama, but Ron Howard can't get the pacing right, and Allan Loeb's script is even wordier than the one he wrote for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps."[23]

In a 2021 reappraisal, The Guardian's Stephen Snart wrote in defense of The Dilemma. He praised "Ron Howard's quietly impressive craftsmanship" which explores "the insidious undercurrents of the bromances without sacrificing the infectious joviality of male bonding".[24]

Home media

The DVD and Blu-ray was released on May 3, 2011, in the United States. It earned $8.9 million from DVD and Blu-Ray sales.[25]

On October 5, 2021, Mill Creek Entertainment released a Blu-ray double feature that contained the film and Vaughn's fellow Universal film The Break-Up (2006).[26]


  1. ^ a b c d e "The Dilemma (2011)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved May 31, 2018.
  2. ^ "The Dilemma - Tyson Library". Tyson Library. Retrieved 18 August 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d "The Dilemma (2011)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 1, 2011.
  4. ^ "The Dilemma". Turner Classic Movies. United States. Retrieved March 24, 2018.
  5. ^ "The Dilemma". Archived from the original on September 24, 2011. Retrieved January 10, 2011.
  6. ^ a b Kit, Borys (January 6, 2010). "Vince Vaughn, Ron Howard eye cheating picture". The Hollywood Reporter. Reuters.
  7. ^ Kit, Borys (February 22, 2010). "Kevin James to co-star in Ron Howard film". The Hollywood Reporter. Reuters.
  8. ^ Fritz, Ben (January 13, 2011). "Movie projector: 'Green Hornet' has plenty of buzz, 'The Dilemma' may have a problem". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 14, 2011.
  9. ^ Metz, Nina (June 24, 2010). "Duck! It's a 'Transformers 3' invasion". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on December 7, 2021.
  10. ^ "Vince Vaughn, Kevin James hope third title for new movie is a charmer". Chicago Tribune. July 29, 2010. Archived from the original on December 7, 2021.
  11. ^ Kilday, Gregg (October 12, 2010). "'Dilemma' dispute hurts studio and gay rights group". The Hollywood Reporter. Reuters.
  12. ^ Goldstein, Patrick; Rainey, James (October 29, 2010). "Ron Howard on 'The Dilemma's' gay joke: It stays in the movie". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 10, 2011.
  13. ^ D'Zurilla, Christie (January 7, 2011). "Vince Vaughn, pregnant Jennifer Connelly at 'The Dilemma' premiere". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 10, 2011.
  14. ^ Stewart, Andrew (January 14, 2011). "Studios seek holiday green". Variety.
  15. ^ a b Gray, Brandon (January 16, 2011). "'Green Hornet' Kicks Into Top Gear Over MLK Weekend". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 17, 2011.
  16. ^ McClintock, Pamela (January 16, 2011). "'Green Hornet' Tops Soft Weekend Box Office With $34 Million". The Hollywood Reporter.
  17. ^ Stewart, Andrew (January 16, 2011). "'Hornet' buzzes over holiday B.O." Variety.
  18. ^ "The Dilemma (2011)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 22, 2021.
  19. ^ "The Dilemma". Metacritic. Retrieved February 8, 2011.
  20. ^ "Cinemascore". Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  21. ^ Sharkey, Betsy (January 14, 2011). "Movie Review: 'The Dilemma'". Los Angeles Times.
  22. ^ Chang, Justin (January 12, 2011). "The Dilemma". Variety.
  23. ^ Edelstein, David (January 14, 2011). "The Tiresome Men-children of The Green Hornet and The Dilemma". Vulture.
  24. ^ Snart, Stephen (2021-02-26). "Hear me out: why The Dilemma isn't a bad movie". the Guardian. Retrieved 2021-02-26.
  25. ^ "The Dilemma (2011)". The Numbers. Retrieved April 13, 2020.
  26. ^ "Vince Vaughn Double Feature - Blu-ray". Mill Creek Entertainment. Retrieved September 25, 2021.