Movie review – Arthur

2011-04-29 16:09

Remakes – ho hum – can be oh-so humdrum. And rude British stand-up Russell Brand’s remake of Arthur is the very definition of bland.

The lanky sewer-mouthed Brand might well have towered over Dudley Moore physically, but Moore’s performance of an over-indulged, shiftless, drunk billionaire is the stuff of film legend. Why would Brand mess with that?

Perhaps he thought having been drunk in all his other films – Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to Greek, for example – he was amply qualified to play the ultimate cinematic drunk, Arthur. Not so.

The story is about Arthur, an obscenely rich playboy who takes play to whole new levels and who has no ambition of any kind. His despairing mother insists that he marries Susan (Jennifer Garner), a wife she thinks is suitable, or he will be cut off without a cent.

Arthur doesn’t like it, but he agrees – until he meets free-spirited Naomi (Greta Gerwig), whom he falls for and who helps him find his slightly less irresponsible side.

The funniest role is that of Hobson, Arthur’s carer. In this version Hobson is none other than Helen Mirren, perhaps the film’s only drawcard.

She not only does justice to her character’s predecessor, John Gielgud, she refashions the role and makes it her own – as I’d expect from her.

Yet, despite her best efforts to drag Brand’s performance up by its bootstraps, she can’t prevent him (with a lot of help from Garner) from sullying the memory of what was a funny, irreverent exploration of the much-used phrase “money can’t buy you love”.

Garner is no great shakes as an actor and here as the control-freak, social-climbing Susan she comes across as just plain barking mad, no light and shade and she couldn’t be funny even if she wore clown shoes.

Gerwig as the love interest lacks definition and is no match for filling the shoes of Liza Minelli who was Arthur’s muse in the 1981 version.

The film is directed by Jason Winer, who makes his big-screen debut. It shows. He hasn’t the experience to safeguard the film’s history, or to create something wholly new and memorable.

He also seems to have no control over his star who bobs and weaves his way through this film being, well, Russell Brand.

Arthur is as great a disappointment to the audience as he is to his mother. As Arthur, the original, once said from his bath wearing a top hat: “Engine room, where’s my drink?” Well might you ask, you’ll need more than one to get through this mindless rubbish.?

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