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Review: Russell Puts His Brand on ‘Arthur'

  • Apr 8, 2011
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Perhaps like most viewers who have watched and been longtime fans of the original 1981 Arthur film, starring Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli, I went into the new Arthur experience convinced I might not like it. I was surprised to find that it was certainly a pleasant film with many moments of genuine laughter but also not different enough to warrant a remake. Too many scenes were borrowed from the original making it impossible to not reference and compare the two versions.
For those who have never seen the original or know what Arthur is, it is the story of a loveable, filthy rich playboy who never quite grows up. He spends his time drinking, carousing about town causing trouble and tormenting his nanny, Hobson, for his own amusement. His life of raucous, carefree fun is threatened when he is forced to marry a woman he doesn’t love or lose out on being the heir to his family’s billion dollar fortune. Arthur meets a sweet, simple girl with no money but with a genuine heart and is torn between following love or wealth.
Although Russell Brand once again relies on his abundant humor and charisma to carry the role of Arthur, at times his bombastic outbursts become tiresome. During the few times in the film where he has moments of reflection or emotion, one can envisage Brand’s potential beyond the boisterous hullabaloo. When he is able to shed the comedic panoply he carries in every one of his films so far, Brand gives the audience a glimmer of hope that he can possibly surpass the typecast of the naughty but loveable drunk with narcissistic tendencies.
Also Brand’s interpretation of playing drunk is less slapstick in this version as opposed to Dudley Moore’s. Brand’s style of inebriation is more in line with that of a career alcoholic whose drinking is needed to stop him from going into withdrawal. Therefore the slapstick is not always necessary.
The casting of Greta Gerwig as Brand’s love interest Naomi creates a winning alchemy between the actors and a pointed contrast with Jennifer Garner’s power-hungry, man-eating character Susan. As much as Naomi is fun and quirky and light-hearted, Susan is brutal and cut throat and relentless in her pursuit of status and wealth. They are the perfect foils for each other and the casting of the characters of Susan and Naomi are spot on.
Garner did a wonderful job of making herself a reviled and hated character. The viewer enjoys disliking her and she plays her role well. Gerwig’s quirky, fun, round-eyed wholesomeness ingratiates her with the audience. Her character’s childlike appreciation and awe with simple pleasures fits Arthur’s equally childlike amusement of life.
Another standout performance is by Helen Mirren in the role of Hobson, played in the original 1981 version by Sir John Gielgud for which he also won an Oscar. Mirren and Brand have a natural chemistry on and off the set which works well on screen. Hobson’s dry, sarcastic retorts perfectly play opposite Arthur’s lunacy. John Gielgud created such a memorable performance, though, that it’s hard to not think of him facetiously telling Dudley Moore to return his library books upon his death when Mirren is reciting the same exact lines in this latest version of the film. Nonetheless, Hobson’s mix of understated emotion and controlled propriety is perfectly executed by Mirren.
Overall Arthur is a film which lends itself to light-hearted fun but was unnecessarily remade as a promotional vehicle for Brand. Although the role of an eccentric billionaire playboy suites Brand’s repartee of eccentric roles up until now, he certainly has the ability to show us quieter and simpler characters who don’t need to reflect his years as a rowdy standup comedian.
Audiences have high hopes for Brand because he does have talent. If he had the strength and willpower to overcome all of the adversity chronicled in his books, he certainly has the strength and willpower to overcome the burden (whether self-imposed or not) of industry typecasting. One would hope his next film will allow him to utilize his Drama Centre training in a poignant and subdued performance of a character who neither needs booze, drugs or crazy antics to entertain.
Review: Russell Puts His Brand on ‘Arthur' Review: Russell Puts His Brand on ‘Arthur' Review: Russell Puts His Brand on ‘Arthur'

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April 11, 2011
No thanks. I'm no fan of Russell Brand. Not even on DVD. But good review!
April 19, 2011
April 09, 2011
Well thought out and fair. Maybe the remake didn't need to be made, but I think it will be funny judging from Russell's other movies.
April 10, 2011
You'll get some laughs out of it.
April 08, 2011
I love Russell Brand. He seems perfect for this. Going to have to catch it. Thanks for sharing!
April 08, 2011
Thanks for reading, devora. I think it's an updated Arthur for 2011 and some people are being way too harsh. It's meant to be what it is; a light-hearted rom-com. I also love the original and Dudley Moore was exceptional, but Russell puts his own spin on it.
More Arthur reviews
review by . April 09, 2011
Surprisingly good
   Upfront, I liked this movie, though apparently I was one of the only people who did. Perhaps I’m helped by not having seen the original movie. I grew up in the 1980′s, and I was certainly aware of the movie. God knows I heard That Song everywhere. But I never actually got around to watching the film, even as an adult. This meant that I could view this movie for what it is rather than compare it. And what it is was actually pretty good. Yes, it’s perhaps a bit much …
review by . August 30, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
** out of ****     Just about every Hollywood remake is unnecessary. Good, I've gotten that out of the way; now I can properly review the recent re-make of the classic 80's comedy favorite, "Arthur". The original is a very good film, one that I enjoyed thoroughly, and also one that I never quite wanted to see being remade. But it was bound to happen eventually. The good news about the final product (the remake) is: it's not bad. It is well-cast in some areas, it is moderately …
review by . April 07, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
There are those that will cry foul on this movie. That a remake of Arthur during a recession is unseemly and any attempt to try and recreate the brilliance of Dudley Moore would be fool hearty. Sure all of that is true but the original is about a drunk with one liners, that movie has been redone so many times why not try to re-share the story for a new generation.      Both old and new Arthur focus in on a drunken millionaire living up the high life, but he is forced …
review by . April 09, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         I won’t dispute the greatness of the original 1981 version of Arthur. I will say that, in its own right, this 2011 remake is funny and often times quite charming. This is thanks in large part to the spot-on casting of Russell Brand, who may not have the same loveable graces of the late Dudley Moore but has just the right eccentricities to make multi-millionaire Arthur Bach an appealing yet piteous drunk. His take is a cross between an alcoholic …
review by . June 11, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
12A - 110mins - Comedy - 22nd April 2011 Now for a guy who takes an immediate disliking to Russell Brand the prospect of watching him for nearly 2 hours did not fill my heart with joy especially when he was to be acting as a rich layabout. But I buckled on down and watched away hoping to be pleasantly surprised and I have to say, it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be (still nothing special mind). Arthur is a remake of the 1981 film of the same name and follows Arthur (Russell …
review by . April 09, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Upfront, I liked this movie, though apparently I was one of the only people who did. Perhaps I'm helped by not having seen the original movie. I grew up in the 1980's, and I was certainly aware of the movie. God knows I heard That Song everywhere. But I never actually got around to watching the film, even as an adult. This meant that I could view this movie for what it is rather than compare it.    And what it is was actually pretty good. Yes, it's perhaps a bit much to ask American …
Quick Tip by . April 25, 2011
Since the original "Arthur" is one of my all-time favorite films I shuttered when I heard a year or so ago that they were going to be doing a remake. I have not heard very many good things about this film and have no plans to see it.
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As a high-concept Hollywood pitch, remaking the charming Dudley Moore 1981 comic romp about a man-child billionaire playboy with a rather serious drinking problem and installing Russell Brand as the new lead sounded like a pretty good idea. With Brand's reputation as a semi-reformed bad boy and actual recovering alcoholic/addict (not to mention his parlayed success from English standup fame to movies likeForgetting Sarah MarshallandGet Him to the Greek), he was a great casting choice to reprise Moore's devilishly innocent character. In many ways Brand is among the heirs to first-wave loony British comics like Moore, Peter Sellers, and Spike Milligan, along with actors like Steve Coogan, Eddie Izzard, and Ricky Gervais. But something happened in the 30-year translation that has deflated a lot of charm from the 2011Arthur. Brand is probably the best thing about the movie, although he's never quite able to capture the characterization of a genuinely agreeable immature cad that Moore portrayed so adorably. This is Russell Brand playing another version of himself, which isn't such a bad thing, just not quite adorable enough. Brand is a smart, funny, and quick-on-his-feet improviser, and lot of that comes through, but he'd probably be the first to admit that he's no Dudley Moore.The basics of the story remain unchanged. Arthur Bach is a trust fund child who is stuck in childhood, even though his pampered bubble of wealth now brings him toys like prostitutes,...
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