1 May

Title: Arthur
Jason Winer
Writer: Peter Baynham, based on the previous screenplay and story written by Steve Gordon
Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Jennifer Garner, Greta Gerwig, Nick Nolte, Luis Guzmán
MPAA Rating: 
PG-13, alcohol use throughout, sexual content, language and some drug references
110 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
Rotten Tomatoes: 

The original Arthur, that 1981 film starring Dudley Moore, is truly a comedy classic, full of honestly funny moments and some great performances by Mr. Moore, Liza Minnelli and John Gielgud. And now, three decades after the release of that one, we get a remake of it, and it’s one that feels quite unnecessary really, and that even though Russell Brand, who gets to see if he can carry a film all by himself here, is totally game for it all, we get a sense that even though the guy can be hilarious when playing supporting roles, or sharing the lead like in last year’s awesome Get Him to the Greek, that’s not so much the case when the guy is the main player, as his cheeky demeanor can sometimes get exhaustive.

I mean, it’s not as though the film is horrible, after all the people in the cast are all quite great, which is especially true when you consider this one has Greta Gerwig, who was probably my favorite new actress of last year after appearing in Greenberg, so she alone can bump this one up a grade for me. But this one just wasn’t needed by anyone, the original is truly great on its own right and didn’t need retelling even if it had been left alone for thirty years, and it’s not that I want to thrash on Mr. Brand here because I actually think the guy’s rather brilliant, but he’s just no Dudley Moore.

And that’s because in the original Arthur there was this sadness to the leading role of a drunk New York playboy that was being forced to marry or risk losing all his fortune. In this remake Mr. Brand doesn’t add that quality to the role, which I guess was maybe because he was trying to make the role his own, like the rest of the actors here also were (Helen Mirren’s role was formerly played by a man, for instance), but taking that away from the film took a whole lot from its overall quality.

And by the way, Ms. Mirren is probably the best part of this remake. She’s seen here tackling a role that was originated by a male, and that also won John Gielgud an Oscar for playing Hobson, who’s Arthur’s butler, and that the late Mr. Gielgud played with a terrific dry wit that worked wonders for the role. Ms. Mirren makes the role her own, not because she’s a woman and not a male, because the only thing that came from that was an unfortunate joke about breast feeding and the changing of Hobson’s title from butler to nanny, but because she’s very funny in the way she reacts to Arthur and in the little things she borrows from Mr. Gielgud’s interpretation, if Mr. Brand as Arthur would have been reciprocal in the quality of his performance then this one might have just turned out good.

But the dilemma for Arthur is that his mother wants him to marry this unlikable woman, played by Jennifer Garner, who would be seen as a fitting bride for a man of his wealth and who’s super uptight and hell-beant on climbing the social ladder as high as she possibly can. Of course there’s the other less seemly alternative which is Ms. Gerwig’s character, a tour guide from Queens who’s made to be the quirky character in the film who Arthur actually likes but who’s not seen by his family as the right bride for him to represent the family’s billion dollar empire. And the scenes between Mr. Brand and Ms. Gerwig are actually quite funny because these are two very cool people who are actually talented.

But I keep going back to thinking that the reason this Arthur just didn’t work for me was because Mr. Brand just embedded the role with too little of the sense of loneliness that came from being so wealthy that Dudley Moore gave it, instead Mr. Brand just plays this drunken guy who has loads of money and has a lot of fun spending it, and the emotional connection is pretty much null. And you know what, the dilemma of choosing between the woman his family wanted for him or the one he wants and might risk losing his fortune for is much more clear-cut here. I mean, in the original the character Ms. Garner plays here was actually a pretty smart and attractive woman who just had no chance because Arthur was too busy chasing after the other girl, who then was played by Liza Minnelli, while in here Ms. Garner plays this gold-digging woman who just wants the status that would come from the marriage and we dislike her from the get-go and find ourselves more obviously inclined to root for Ms. Gerwig’s character.

This new Arthur wasn’t bad but it wasn’t much of anything because we didn’t need it. Yes, the whole cast does the best they can, but they are working from a re-work of a film that needed no reworking, and most of the changes done to the original here don’t improve the quality at all, especially that of making Arthur more of just a fun drunk who quickly becomes obnoxious and tiresome to watch for a whole film instead of a guy that was both a charming free spirit and a drunk we felt sorry for at the same time. If you haven’t seen the original then maybe you’ll find yourself liking this Arthur, but if that’s somehow the case (because you really should have seen Arthur by now) then I would advice you to rent the original and watch it in the comfort of your home instead of buying an overpriced ticket to see the modernized retelling of a film that was best left alone.

Grade: C+


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