Review by Jack Foley
IT’S been suggested that those best equipped to enjoy Arthur are those who haven’t seen the original… as well as those with a fondness for Russell Brand.
It seems a fair point given that this is a fun if instantly forgettable comedy that stands or falls on how much you dig the Brand’s charms.
Jason Winer’s update arguably lacks the sophistication of the Dudley Moore original (if you can call a movie about a drunk sophisticated) but it does benefit from a strong supporting cast and some witty one liners that deliver more than their fair share of chuckles.
There are some cringe-inducing moments, of course, while leading man Brand is rarely stretched beyond his comfort zone.
The plot remains largely the same as irresponsible billionaire Arthur Bach (Brand) suddenly finds his care-free lifestyle threatened by an ultimatum by his business-minded mother: marry the beautiful but decidedly ruthless Susan (Jennifer Garner), an ambitious corporate executive who can keep him and his mother’s business reputation in line, or wave goodbye to his funds.
It’s an ultimatum made all the more complicated by the sudden arrival of a potential new love interest, in the form of Naomi (Greta Gerwig), a New York City tour guide who shares his idealism and spontaneity.
So, with lifelong nanny and best friend Hobson (Helen Mirren taking the role originally played by John Gielgud) in tow, Arthur must decide on whether to take the most expensive risk of his life or suck it up and continue leading his slacker existence.
Without wanting to sound too obvious, the choice Arthur makes is never really in doubt, which means the enjoyment of the film also depends on how enjoyable the ride is. Fortunately, for the most part, it’s an undemanding romp.
Admittedly, the humour is more low brow than the original and plays to Brand’s off-screen persona as much as his on-screen character, but it does make you laugh in several places.
Brand, as he showed in Get Him To The Greek, knows how to deliver a one-liner with zip and meaning, while also hinting at greater depths on the few occasions that Winer’s film allows.
There’s strong support, too, from the typically solid Mirren – both funny and emotionally affecting as occasion demands – and from Gerwig, as the film’s luminous but plucky love interest (clearly still relishing her foray into the mainstream after No Strings Attached).
Some of the set pieces, too, are great fun… while observational comedy at the expense of everyday members of the public who look like comedy versions of celebrities are also guaranteed to leave you laughing out loud (I would have loved to know how they did the casting call!).
The balance of risqué humour and slapstick comedy mostly works, even if some moments do grate and feel unnecessary, while the obligatory third act slide into sentimentality does yield some dramatic set pieces that are surprisingly poignant.
It means that for all its flaws, and the obvious question of whether Arthur really needed re-making in the first place, if you enter the cinema with an open, even playful mind, you could well find yourself having a much better time than you initially expected.
Running time: 110mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: September 19, 2011
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Arthur Photo Gallery 2
- Watch the Arthur trailer and featurettes