THE DILEMMA (12A) **

The truth hurts... almost as much as seeing the kernel of a good idea poorly executed on the big screen.

The Dilemma is a curious amalgam of heart-tugging drama and buddy comedy that lurches from class to crass.

On the one hand, screenwriter Allan Loeb tests the bonds of brotherly love as he puts characters through the emotional wringer, and Oscar-winning director Ron Howard elicits strong performances from Jennifer Connelly and Winona Ryder as the women caught in a web of lies.

Yet, every time the film strikes a chord, we are subjected to a ludicrous scene of idiocy involving Vince Vaughn and Kevin James that begs serious questions about why two intelligent and beautiful women would ever entertain the advances of these buffoons, let alone marry them.

Ronny (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Kevin James) have been best friends since college and now work together at B&V Engine Design, the company they both own.

They hope to pitch their state-of-the-art electric engine design to executives at a major company.

Automotive consultant Susan Warner (Queen Latifah) will oversee the project before the big pitch of the prototype, and she is excited about what Ronny and Nick are claiming they can deliver.

"I want to have sex with your words," she purrs.

While Nick works tirelessly to iron out gremlins in his design, Ronny frets about proposing to his girlfriend, talented chef Beth (Jennifer Connelly).

During preparations to go down on bended knee, Ronny makes a shocking discovery: Nick's wife Geneva (Winona Ryder) is cheating with a tattooed younger man called Zip (Channing Tatum).

Therefore Ronny faces an agonising decision: Keep the truth from his best friend until the automotive company has signed on the dotted line or tell Nick everything, aggravate his stomach ulcer and plunge the engine design project into chaos.

The Dilemma has all of the makings of an intriguing dissection of male relationships, posing the question: What would we do in Ronny's position?

Certainly, we wouldn't follow the path of Vaughn's hero, who goes to ludicrous lengths to gather proof of Geneva's infidelity, leading to a bruising fist fight and an excruciating speech about honesty at an anniversary party.

Connelly and Ryder play their roles straight while almost all of the male actors milk laughs where they can, including pantomime tears from Channing about his stricken pet fish.

Changes in tone are jarring and by the time Howard draws proceedings to a close by uniting the characters in one location, we're secretly hoping that the various relationships implode because we cannot see any realistic hope of a happy future.

Of course, loneliness and regret do not sit well with audiences – we have more than enough of that in our day-to-day lives – and so The Dilemma serves up simplistic, sugar-coated escapism.