Movie Review: Arthur

by Ian McFarland on April 8, 2011

in Print Reviews

From the Department of Useless Remakes comes Warner’s re-imagining of the Dudley Moore comedy Arthur. I haven’t seen that original, but having watched every episode of The Critic, I get the idea that remaking Dudley Moore’s original without Dudley Moore would be like if Warners followed through on their threats and made a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” movie without Joss Whedon.

But on the other hand, maybe it was my lack of fondness for the original that allowed me to enjoy this new version of Arthur, at least as much as its standalone quality would let me.

arthur-2011-posterThe remake gives Dudley Moore’s role to a surprisingly popular rockstar-themed comic turned rockstar-themed actor. Russell Brand has mostly been known for the role of Aldous Huxley from 2008′s Forgetting Sarah Marshall and its 2010 spinoff Get Him to the Greek, a role that has started to define the actor himself.

So it’s refreshing to see his character in “Arthur” isn’t just a physical manifestation of the Ego and Id. Though there’s an issue with alcoholism involved, seeing Brand as a well-meaning rich guy that randomly spends thousands on people he’s just met is a welcome departure for the actor.

It helps that Brand can deliver on his lines–there’s a witty quip in every sentence he delivers, and the film is edited to shoot these out rapid-fire without mercy. The unforgiving pace of these wisecracks makes them difficult to appreciate, but Brand manages to at least stay afloat.

But Brand’s not the only victim here. The entire film is edited faster than a character dramedy can handle, like it’s just there to deliver jokes and isn’t interested in building tension. The script itself only worsens the problem. Funky pacing makes the last half of the film feel like a roller coaster of character development: Things are good! Things are Bad! Now they’re good again, but now they’re bad. It begins to feel taxing, and none of it works well on its own either.

There’s not a lot of vision for Arthur from behind the lens, but Brand and his costar Helen Mirren (Helen Mirren is in this?) keep the drama from sinking beneath a strange, hyper realization about a man whose adolescence was stunted growing up.

Also, enough can’t be said of supporting actor Luis Guzmán. Guzmán has never had an opportunity to show off much acting chops, but there’s not a line of dialogue he can’t make hilarious.

Up-and-comer Greta Gerwig has shown a lot of talent, but just falls into Manic Pixie Dream Girl stereotypes (maybe this isn’t entirely her fault, her character and the movie on the whole hosts a weird resemblance to the Will Ferrell manchild Christmas comedy Elf).

Altogether, it’s kind of fun to watch; but whether or not the original “Arthur” deserved a remake, it’s hard to justify why exactly this film itself needed to be made at all.

Ian McFarland

Ian T. McFarland reviews movies and music for Scene-Stealers, Dadsbigplan, LostinReviews, and has been called the “stud of his generation” (by somebody somewhere, surely).

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