He has made some of the most enjoyable mainstream movies of the last three decades. However, "The Dilemma" is not one of them. Journeyman director Ron Howard has been proficient with layered comedies ("Splash," "Parenthood") and accessible dramas ("Apollo 13," "Frost/Nixon"). But his new Vince Vaughn oddity isn't really either.

It has slick production values, a focus on modern relationships, a few stabs at physical shtick and goofball Kevin James in it. This gave Universal Pictures just enough footage to create a misleading ad campaign, which pitches the picture as both woman-friendly romantic comedy and man-friendly farce. But the humor is forced and sporadic. Simultaneously, the tonally bipolar screenplay by Alan Loeb ("21," "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps") also includes grim scenes about the pain of marital deceit and betrayal, gambling addiction, and career pressures.

Neither fish nor fowl, the most positive thing about "The Dilemma" is its provocative premise: If you catch your best friend's spouse cheating, do you tell?

'The Dilemma'
» Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
» Stars: Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Channing Tatum
» Director: Ron Howard
» Rated PG-13: for mature thematic elements involving sexual content
» Running time: 110 minutes

Ronny Valentine (Vaughn) and Nick Backman (James) are Chicago-based business partners trying to win a contract from Chrysler to design electric cars that perform like old-school muscle cars. This subplot is a time-wasting non sequitur. The specifics have little to do with the main situation and yet take up significant screen time.

Ronny needs his BFF and engineer to remain focused. So he is faced with the title's dilemma when he catches Nick's wife ("Black Swan's" resurgent Winona Ryder) making out with a hot, young punk -- played by a surprisingly amusing Channing Tatum, who upstages his more experienced elders here.

If Ronny tattles to Nick, it could not only ruin their friendship, but also their business venture. Complicating matters further, for reasons that only happen in contrived Hollywood scripts, Ronny refuses to tell his would-be fiancee Beth (solemn Jennifer Connelly) why he has been acting so mysteriously. So she assumes that the recovering gambling addict has relapsed. Hilarity does not ensue.

The material and its execution seem worse through the prism of star Vaughn's snarky personality and distractingly unappealing appearance.