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Movie Review: ‘Arthur’

April 8, 2011

Something has been lost in translation in this ill-advised and disappointing remake of  Arthur (1984). The original featured the late comedic talent Dudley Moore, and was nominated for four Academy Awards. It’s a pretty safe assumption that this film won’t be picking up any trophies come awards season.

Russell Brand plays Arthur, a perpetually drunk playboy suffering from a chronic case of arrested development. He lives in a fabulous highrise building in New York, and surrounds himself with gadgets, toys, and booze.

His sole companion is his live-in nanny Hobson, played by Helen Mirren. Hobson has played the role of surrogate mom since Arthur’s birth. She accepts Arthur unconditionally, and serves as his confidante, nursemaid, and cook. Arthur also pals around with his driver Bitterman (Luis Guzman) on any given night. The first night we see the two step out on the town, they are dressed as Batman and Robin, and Bitterman drives a Batmobile through the streets. Naturally, they get arrested, which seems to be a common occurrence for the two.

Mere moments later, Arthur has posted bail for everyone in the slammer, and all is good in the world. Arthur lives the life of unfettered hedonism, with no obvious consequences to any of his actions. It’s the life of Riley.

One day his joy is shattered by a mandate given by his mother. He is to wed the brainy and beautiful Susan (Jennifer Garner), or lose his inheritance. It’s a bit silly to think that any red-blooded man would recoil in horror at having to marry Jennifer Garner, most would rejoice over their stupendous luck. However, Arthur wants nothing to do with Susan, but he does not want to lose his fortune, so he reluctantly agrees to marry her.

Shortly thereafter, Arthur meets Linda (Greta Gerwig), a free-spirited woman with a severe lack of sartorial sensibility. She is conducting tours of New York without a proper license, and when Arthur witnesses the police closing in on her, he steps in as her knight in shining armour. He is immediately smitten, and begins to date her despite the fact that he is engaged to Susan. Obviously, this can’t end well.

Will Arthur ever grow up?  Will he marry Susan to keep the money?  Will Linda forgive Arthur’s dishonesty?  Will you be able to stay awake for the duration of the film?  It all remains to be seen.

There is precious little to rejoice in here. The film is not funny, lacks the charm of the original, and simply doesn’t translate well to our contemporary culture. After being inundated by episodes of Intervention, Relapse, and countless other reality shows about addiction, watching Brand stumble and mumble his way through drunken escapades is not amusing in the least. It is stressful, sad, and horrifying.

I don’t mean to be too politically correct or uptight, but if I were to go out on a first date with a man who was drunk off his arse, certain red flags are raised. There probably won’t be a second date. Linda, however, is thrilled by his antics, and falls in love with him. Why?  He has no redeeming qualities aside from his fortune. He’s a damn trainwreck, precisely the type of man we all try to avoid in this day and age.  He’s poison.

I am completely perplexed by Brand’s noterieity.  He is a one trick pony, essentially playing himself in this film. Though I was pleasantly surprised by Brand in Get Him to the Greek, he wore out his welcome in five minutes flat in this film.

I’m torn with Gerwig. I have enjoyed her immensely in House of the Devil and Greenberg, but she has been dumbed down, her hair has been lightened, and she dresses like a four-year old in this movie. I suspect that is part of the reason Arthur is immediately attracted to her-she looks like a child, and he is a child at heart.

I hate to harp on clothing, but no woman over 18 would dress like this. In every single scene, Gerwig is dressed in an empire-waist babydoll dress (that went out of style in the early ’90s) that barely covers her lady bits. Complicating the disturbing wardrobe choices are bobby socks (my six year old won’t even wear these anymore) and mary jane shoes.

At one point Hobson asks Linda if she raided Minnie Mouse’s closet. It’s a fair question.  The clothing choices are actually distracting, a first for me. Gerwig has not been called upon to do much more than act like she is full of childlike wonder and awe the whole time she is on screen. What a waste.

Mirren’s character Hobson is the heart and soul of the film, and while Mirren is fine (and good in some scenes) I am beginning to worry that she is quickly becoming the female Michael Caine.  Dear Helen: Just because you are offered a role, it does not necessarily mean you must take it.

The feeble story almost coaxed a few smiles from my lips, but nothing even close to a chuckle. Ultimately, the film was a chore to sit through. Steer clear if you are a fan of the original, not a fan of the original, or even if you have never seen the original.

Rating 2/5.  Arthur is rated PG-13.  Written Peter Baynham (story by Steve Gordon).  Starring Russell Brand, Jennifer Garner, Greta Gerwig, and Helen Mirren.


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