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A movie directed by Jason Winer

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Brand Boozes It Up

  • Apr 9, 2011
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 and a manchild, and while that may seem like too much, it actually works quite well. The other noticeable difference is the character of Hobson, who has been changed from a butler to a nanny and is played by Helen Mirren; although she lacks the restraint of John Gielgud, her dry wit and biting sarcasm makes the character funny in an entirely new way. Despite her aloofness, her maternal instincts are never far off. This only made me like her even more.
The plot is very similar to the original film. Arthur, a New York playboy who lives off of his family’s fortune and has never held a job, regularly humiliates his controlling mother, Vivienne (Geraldine James), with whom he’s on a first-name basis. Fed up with his drinking and boyish antics – not the least of which is dressing up as Batman, driving erratically in an actual Batmobile, crashing, and yet again getting arrested – she gives him an ultimatum: If he wishes to remain heir to a $900 million fortune, he must marry Susan (Jennifer Garner), the daughter of a wealthy construction tycoon (Nick Nolte). For Susan, it’s merely a vindictive ploy to be respected in upper-class circles, since working your way to the top is apparently not good enough. Needless to say, she and Arthur have absolutely no romantic feelings for each other.

But Arthur cannot simply say goodbye to a life of luxury, so he begrudgingly goes along with it. Nevertheless, he falls in love with Naomi (Greta Gerwig), an aspiring children’s book writer who makes money by guiding illegal tours of Grand Central Station. In an implausible but cute scene, Arthur woos Naomi by setting up a dinner (a tray full of Pez pellets and custom dispensers) in the lobby, complete with rose petals, a waiter, and acrobats bouncing around on trampolines. This not only required the emptying of the station but also the rerouting of several train lines. I couldn’t even begin to guess the logistics of such an undertaking, but then again, I don’t think I’m supposed to try; the point is that we see the two of them falling in love, and indeed, Naomi is a sweet and caring young woman, and just as it was with Liza Minnelli, I could see her and Arthur becoming an item.
Keeping watch over the whole thing is Hobson, who’s just tactful enough to do her job but isn’t so submissive that she can’t throw the occasional zinger. She every bit a woman who has seen it all, done it all, and is genuinely sick of it. How else to feel when your duties include donning latex gloves, tossing out half-finished bottles of booze, and rounding up dozens of party guests who lay passed out on the floor? She clearly has misgivings, and I don’t blame her. She also cares deeply for Arthur, and I don’t blame her for that, either. There is a loveable man there; it inevitably comes down to resentment of his mother and sorrow over the loss of his father, and he needs to find a healthier outlet for his frustration. You can’t fill an emotional void with bottles of alcohol or insanely expensive auction items.

Much of the comedy comes from Arthur’s caricaturish behavior and witty dialogue. Some have criticized this – I say that Brand is in real life a caricature, and therefore is perfectly suited for this material. In unique Brand fashion, we will watch Arthur fail miserably at working at a candy store, where he actually wants to try his hand at dressing up as a gigantic Gummi Bear – a job most people would find thankless and demeaning. Although he has the slurred speech down pat, Brand is not exactly doing a Dudley Moore imitation. This isn’t a criticism. A true remake stays faithful to its source, and yet it also features distinctive touches from both the filmmakers and the actors; although the plot is roughly the same, there are enough differences between this Arthur and the original for them to stand on their own.
Admittedly, this version isn’t as consistently funny. The tone is goofier, the characters are broader, and the story isn’t quite as plausible. I was disappointed by the casting of Luis Guzman as Arthur’s chauffeur, an infrequent character that ultimately contributes nothing to the story, apart from a few throwaway one-liners. Nolte is tragically miscast and plays the worst character; in a horribly unfunny scene, he forces Arthur to stick his tongue out and inch closer to a working table saw, which is supposed to automatically shut off when moisture is detected. He’s not a protective father, but a ruthless psychopath, and he has the gravelly voice to match. Regardless, Arthur is overall an enjoyable movie – far from perfect, but a great vehicle for Brand and Mirren.


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April 09, 2011
I do like Garner and Mirren, but I am not sure about this one. I'll keep this in mind but there are like three other movies I want to see this weekend. I'll be right back to read up on your other stuff as soon as I get back. Thanks!
April 09, 2011
This movie does seem to be dividing critics. Would it help if you knew that among those who liked it are Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper?
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 08, 2011
Review: Russell Puts His Brand on ‘Arthur'
    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.   …
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 . 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.
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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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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