If one valuable lesson came from recent comedic travesties such as 'Couples Retreat' and 'Grown Ups' it is that lazy scriptwriting, poor direction and unconvincing characters cannot be sugar-coated by an all-star cast, or the token 'funny guy'. After a decade of hibernating from the comedy genre, Oscar-winning director Ron Howard ('A Beautiful Mind') has ignored all the warning signs, adding yet another meaningless comedy to the Hollywood pile.

Ronny Valentine (Vaughn) and Nick Brennan (James) are longtime friends and business partners in a small Chicago engine design company. Nick is married to his college sweetheart Geneva (Ryder), while Ronny is contemplating whether to pop the question to his beautiful girlfriend Beth (Connelly). However, Ronny's train of thought quickly goes off the rails when he sees Geneva smooching a young tattooed stud (Tatum).

With a pivotal presentation with a car manufacturer looming, Nick (the brains of the operation) begins to have panic-attacks and sleepless nights over his ability to design electric engines for muscle cars. With only a few days to complete the product, Ronny is faced with the dilemma: Break the news to Nick and risk jeopardising a big deal, or bite his lip until the work is complete. But can you put a price on friendship?

'The Dilemma's biggest flaw is that Howard struggles to find the appropriate tone throughout, swaying from pathetic gags to supposedly meaningful scenes that emphasise the importance of relationships - neither carries any weight. The film fails to connect with viewers on an emotional level, thus making the audience question events more then they should, e.g. when Ronny refuses to tell Beth about his predicament.

Not surprisingly, the lack of chemistry between the cast stems from scriptwriter Allan Loeb only half developing the characters. Vaughn brings a lot of energy to his role as Ronny; however his insistence on yet again playing the hot-shot big man is really getting old at this stage. Kevin James just about manages to squeeze out a few laughs, but for the majority of the film he looks a bit dazed, and fails to show any signs of 'bromance' with his partner.

On the plus side, the women of 'The Dilemma' hold their own. Jennifer Connelly plays the part of the loving and inquisitive girlfriend perfectly, while Winona Ryder is superb as the manipulating yet hard-done-by wife.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the supporting roles. Channing Tatum looks uncomfortable and tends to over-perform as Ryder's character's boy toy, while Queen Latifah's crude cameo is cringe-worthy to say the least.

'The Dilemma' and its resolution feel contrived and unrealistic, making it one very messy affair.

Laura Delaney