Now playing in Raleigh at nearly every multiplex:
“Arthur” (Dir. Jason Winer, 2011)
The one and only improvement that this remake of the fine but slight 1981 Dudley Moore comedy contains is that rich drunken playboy Arthur Bach doesn’t cackle obnoxiously at his own jokes throughout the entire movie.
That’s not to say that Russell Brand isn’t obnoxious in the role, don’t get me wrong.
His schtick gets increasingly more annoying as the film progresses through its lazily arranged set-pieces, that stick closely to the original’s basic plot points, even recycling key dialogue, and even touches on elements of the 1988 sequel (i.e. Arthur tries to get sober and get a job).
The film does have a handful of decent one-liners mostly in the exchanges between Brand and Helen Mirren as Arthur’s nanny, but they’re not enough to justify this rancid re-imagining.
So Arthur is stuck in the pickle of having to marry a woman he’s not in love with (Jennifer Garner) or else losing his family fortune of $900 million. Indie “it” girl Greta Gerwig gets mixed up in this in the role formerly played by Liza Minnelli, but the character is now an unlicensed NYC tour-guide instead of a shoplifting waitress.
It was an inspired choice, one of the film’s few, to cast the Oscar winning Mirren, in a gender/job title change from butler to nanny, as Hobson, the role that won an Oscar for John Gielgud way back in the day. Her stern and acidic performance really helps the film through some tedious stretches.
Gerwig does good work with what she’s given, but there’s zero chemistry between her and Brand. Her aspiring children’s book author character is just a convention, and the film really isn’t very interested in her. Nor Garner, whose part is pretty insulting especially in the film’s worst bit – a sitcom-style bedroom scene that has the actress in a metal corset stuck to the bottom of Brand’s magnetic bed.
For some reason Nick Nolte appears as Garner’s grizzled father, and I don’t think I’ve seen him invested less in a part. Ditto Geraldine James as Brand’s disapproving mother, a thankless role in a movie full of them.
None of those other roles matter, of course, because it’s Brand’s show. He gets to slosh around doing wacky things like dressing up as Batman with his chauffeur (an extremely mis-used Luis Guzmán) as Robin leading the police in a high-speed chase in the Batmobile, drive the “Back To The Future” Delorean (he collects movie cars, you see), and strut down the street wearing President Lincoln’s top hat, coat, and cane he just purchased at an auction.
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