Kevin James, Winona Ryder, & The Rock Pose an Unexpectedly Complex Dilemma


Kevin James, Winona Ryder, & The Rock Pose an Unexpectedly Complex Dilemma

  • Kevin James, Winona Ryder, & The Rock Pose an Unexpectedly Complex Dilemma

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    The Dilemma's love quadrangle.
    The Dinner: Harvest Moon pizza and a 23-ounce glass of porter at The Rock in Renton (830 N. 10th St.).

    The Movie: The Dilemma at Renton Landing Cinemas. (900 N. 10th).

    The Screenplate: Vince Vaughn's movies are consistently marketed as macho, zany Swingers or Wedding Crashers sequels, even if they aren't. And lately they haven't been; The Break-Up and The Dilemma are both a ton deeper, darker, and better than you'd guess from their trailers.

    The Break-Up, which featured ace thespians like Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Judy Davis, John Michael Higgins, Justin Long, and Jon Favreau in supporting roles, actually looked like it might have the goods. And it did--it was among the most realistic depictions of a relationship in disrepair that's ever been committed to celluloid.

    Conversely, The Dilemma looks like it should be shit. Replace the aforementioned actors with the likes of Channing Tatum, Winona Ryder, Queen Latifah, and Kevin James and elaboration isn't necessary. Aside from a Frantastic turn in an old Strangers With Candy episode, comedy's never been Ryder's bag, and she hasn't had a noteworthy role in years. Meanwhile, Tatum's been consistently typecast as a brooding, monotone Josh Hartnett clone (actually, he's managed to render Hartnett obsolete, as Hollywood apparently only needs one of this type), and Latifah and James are incredibly polarizing megastars who play best far from either coast.

    But The Dilemma is not shit--far from it. Granted, it's not as good as The Break-Up, but it's destined to be seen by far more theatergoers, namely because James has been cast in the Vaughn's-best-friend role typically reserved for the lower-watt Favreau. Stunningly, James manages to show genuine restraint. His character, a green-tech automotive genius who's a-hustlin' Vaughn's Chicago business partner, is light years removed from the annoying, mugging, New Yawk fat-ass Americans have come to either love or hate. That James is able to resist playing Kevin James deserves some sort of major recognition.

    Jennifer Connelly is great as Vaughn's love interest. But Connelly is great in pretty much everything, as is Vaughn. (This film is notable for not including the Vaughn-coined phrase, "Let's get hopped up and make some bad decisions.") Latifah and Tatum are surprisingly funny in small roles, but it's Ryder whose professional corpse is exhumed by The Dilemma. Her infidelity to James provides the film's central tension point, and where she could have settled for portraying a rapscallion cunt, she manages instead to make her character's motivations for straying seem almost justifiable. She singlehandedly elevates The Dilemma from run-of-the-mill Vaughn/James vehicle to something uniquely vital, much as Aniston did in The Break-Up.

    If Kevin James and his admirers were to eat at any restaurant in Western Washington, they'd likely end up at The Rock, a 16-year-old suburban chain that started in Tacoma and has grown to include franchises in Covington, Federal Way, Lacey, Lake Tapps, Lynnwood, Mill Creek, Puyallup, Vancouver, and Renton (they'll soon expand to Canada). "Hell Yeah . . . That's Good Pizza!" is its slogan, its drinks are called Rocktails, and all its pies are named after classic-rock songs. We had the Harvest Moon, with tomatoes, crushed garlic, capers, prosciutto, and mozzarella. Cooked in a wood oven, it was decent if not great--the capers were a flavorful touch, but there wasn't enough prosciutto.

    But the Rock is really a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-fucking-get-after-it bar masquerading as a pizza parlor, and that's its true charm. Among the Rocktails is a "freakin' bucket!" filled with five types of rum that is so huge it comes with a shovel, and so potent that customers are only permitted to suck down two in a sitting. But of course there's an end-around: A woman at the bar who looked like Kevin James in drag simply augmented her rum bucket with tequila shots. Hell yeah, indeed.

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