Russell Brand takes on the Dudley Moore is this remake of the 1981 comedy that brings the action right up to date for no apparent reason
Brand is Arthur; drunk, philanderer, overgrown child and heir to a $1 billion fortune controlled by his distant mother Vivienne (Geraldine James). In an attempt to curb his inappropriate behaviour, she issues him with an ultimatum – marry Susan (Jennifer Garner) and solidify the reputation of his family or lose the money forever. With the help of lifelong carer Hobson (Helen Mirren), Arthur prepares to give up his freedom. Until kooky faux tour guide Naomi (Greta Gerwig) catches his eye.
1981’s Arthur is a lightly touching and sparingly comedic tale of an over privileged idiot who learns some vital life lessons which being chastised by the perfectly cast John Gielgud. Thirty years later, those moments of Arthur that work are have been shamelessly appropriated from the original while the notion of such excessive spending in the midst of a global economic depression is barely acknowledged and in particularly poor taste.
Arthur exists on the median plateau of a studio release crafted and released by committee. The jokes are generally inoffensive - even Brands quips are kept in kid-friendly territory – the drama is meagre and the budding romance shapeless and dull. Worst of all, there’s no reason to root for Arthur. When forced to finally stand on his own two feet he can’t commit to a life without money, a point of view which the films overly flimsy finale makes no attempt to chastise him for.
As Arthur, Brand is better than expected – capturing some of the off centre appeal of Dudley Moore. It may be a wafer thin performance in a soon to be forgotten film but there’s no doubting the man’s business savvy, with both this and Hop performing well above expectations at the box office. Mirren can’t match Gielgud on any level, with every halfway decent line stolen from his lips faltering without his pitch perfect delivery. Still, she adds a touch of class to proceedings and there’s something comforting about having two British thesps headlining a major American release. Garner and Gerwig are miscast and mopey respectively, while Nick Nolte chews through his performance in a growl which must cause him physical pain.
The cast is decent and there are titters to be found for those unfamiliar with the original but it’s hard to understand exactly why the existence of 2011’s Arthur was deemed in any way necessary.