Synopsis: In this fresh new look at a classic story, Russell Brand reinvents the role of loveable billionaire Arthur Bach, an irresponsible charmer who has always relied on two things to get by: his limitless fortune and the good sense of his lifelong nanny and best friend Hobson (Helen Mirren), to keep him out of trouble. Kind-hearted, fun-loving, and utterly without purpose, Arthur spends every day in the heedless pursuit of amusement. But when his unpredictable public image threatens the staid reputation of the family foundation, Bach Worldwide, he is given an ultimatum: marry the beautiful but decidedly unlovable Susan Johnson (Jennifer Garner), an ambitious corporate exec who can keep him in line, or say goodbye to his billion-dollar inheritance and the only way of life he knows. It’s a deal Arthur would be inclined to take…if he hadn’t just fallen for Naomi (Greta Gerwig), a New York City tour guide who shares his idealism and spontaneity. The independent Naomi sees Arthur not only for who he is, but for who he could be, and finally gives him a reason to take charge of his own life. All he needs to do is stand up for what he wants. But at what cost? With some unconventional help from Hobson–the one person who always believed he could do anything–Arthur will take the most expensive risk of his life and learn what it means to become a man.
Release Date: April 8, 2011 MPAA Rating: PG-13
In 1981 the original Dudley Moore classic was widely praised and went on to win two of the four Academy Awards for which it was nominated. Thirty years later, I guarantee that the remake will have no such luck. The plotline of the new Arthur is pretty much identical to its predecessor: set in New York, an English millionaire drunk named Arthur (Russell Brand) is pushed into marrying a similarly wealthy woman, Susan (Jennifer Garner) or face being completely cut off from the family funds ($950,000,000). Before Arthur goes through with it he meets the perfect girl, Naomi (Greta Gerwig), and the typical wealth vs. true love dilemma ensues. Although the framework for the film has been retained, what has changed is the surrounding world rendering an already unnecessary remake into an inappropriate one as well. I’m not sure if any of the top executives at Warner Bros. have kept up with the news lately, but the country was hit with one of the worst recessions in history, unemployment is soaring, budget cuts are hurting everyone from Planned Parenthood to Wisconsin Labor Unions, and China is kicking our ass. So remind me again how a multi-millionaire wandering the city drunk as he recklessly squanders his assets on foolishness is funny again? I’m guessing all the Wall Street big wigs and Goldman-Sachs CEOs who still got their bonuses despite screwing everyone else over will find Arthur hilarious.
Perhaps the film is meant to be a satire? But whatever scathing commentary the writers had intended has been sidelined in favor of cheesy ’90s Romantic-Comedy preposterousness. So in order to remain a millionaire I have to marry Jennifer Garner? And this is bad because… Oh yes, because she’s an evil b**ch and obviously I’m supposed to marry the other girl. One would think that in the post-Apatow world of romantic comedy, characters would actually be presented as real choices in opposition to each other rather than obvious, no-brainer mistakes. But no, the characters are pretty much live-action Disney cartoons with Arthur as the overly exaggerated, man-boy wealthy prince, Naomi as the impoverished princess, and Susan as the evil queen standing in the way. If that type of obvious nonsense is your cup of tea, then by all means buy a ticket and enjoy, for everyone else, it might be best to see what else is playing.
All personal venting aside, Arthur, although not a good film is not altogether terrible either. Thanks to the talents of Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, and Greta Gerwig, there are indeed snippets of enjoyment to be found from scene to scene. Although not as lovable as Dudley Moore, Russell Brand utilizes his quick wit and plays Arthur as likable as possible, not an easy feat considering Brand’s eccentric persona. Mirren plays Hobson (the role that earned John Gielgud an Oscar in the original) perfectly straight, a strict nanny, but sincerely in defiance of ever giving up on Arthur. And Greta Gerwig as the quirky love interest earns the affection of the audience making a scene in which Arthur clears out Grand Central Station for her on a date somewhat justifiable.
Thanks to a likable cast and a few sight gags, Arthur is not without its occasional charm. Nevertheless, replicating a formula from thirty years ago without any real alterations makes the entire project feel dated. Hollywood remakes rarely see success and here again is another example.
Arthur relies far too heavily on sight gags and spreads its wit far too thin to ever really draw out the laughs, but there are laughs to be found throughout the film. Whether it be Luis Guzman dressed in a skin-tight Robin costume, a magnetized floating bed, or Helen Mirren in a Darth Vader helmet, these sight-gags should entertain those like me who are easily-amused. Russell Brand has his share of comedic moments throughout the film including a bit where he comes up with rhyming insults aimed toward his bride to be at a bridal shower complete with piano accompaniment. What Brand is really good at though is quickly delivering witty one-liners. Arthur accidentally shoots his future father-in-law (played by a crazy Nick Nolte) with several nails via a nail gun at one point and his initial response is, “They made a hero out of Jesus.” It’s a shame that the studio chose to subdue Brand’s talents with a PG-13 rating. An R-rated Arthur where Russell Brand and company had been allowed to improvise as they please? Now that would’ve been a funny movie.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Jason WinerLarry BreznerKevin McCormick
- Producer(s): J.C. SpinkMichael TadrossPeter BaynhamSteve Gordon
- Screenwriter(s): Russell Brand (Arthur)Helen Mirren (Hobson)Greta Gerwig (Naomi)
- Story: Jennifer Garner (Susan)
- Cast: Luis Guzman (Bitterman)Nick Nolte (Burt Johnson) Brent WhiteUta BriesewitzSarah Knowles
- Cinematographer: Theodore Shapiro
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA