By: Mark Di Stefano
Rating: 6 out of 10
Arthur, the 1981 film with Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli, John Gielgud, and written & directed by Steve Gorden, is a comic, sweet delight. The 2011 remake, is something that comes close but gets no cigar.
In the 2011 remake, Russell Brand plays Arthur Bach, an alcoholic playboy who is the heir to a multi-billion dollar corporation. He drives batmobiles and DeLorean’s to have a good time. His personal nanny Hobson (Helen Mirren) and his driver Bitterman (Luis Guzman) are his only friends.
When Arthur is forced by his mother Vivienne (Geraldine James) to marry Susan Johnson (Jennifer Gardner), the daughter of Burt Johnson (Nick Nolte), head of another major corporation, Arthur has no choice because he’ll be cut off from his wealth. However, when he meets Naomi Quinn (Gretta Gerwig), a middle-class writer, he falls in love. Arthur now has to choose between true love or money.
While Arthur mirrors the same plot as the original, does not live up to expectations. To be honest, Russell Brand is a funny comedian, but his interpretation of Arthur Bach does not live up to Dudley Moore’s. Moore’s interpretation was a thing of genius, a mix of sarcastic humor and a loveable personality. Brand’s take was decent, but its boyish humor can be a drag. When Moore is an alcoholic, that seems hilarious, and when Brand is an alcoholic, it almost seems expected because of typecasting.
Brand’s performance seems bearable when compared to other characters in the film. Susan Johnson in the original film was a low-key character, yet whenever she was on-screen, the audience could tell she was conniving and cynical through her extremely pleasant behavior towards him. However, Jennifer Gardner plays the role with so much cynicism and dumb humor that it becomes unnecessary. Nick Nolte is a disappointment as well, having a small role and not much room to expand, his character becomes just as unnecessary as Gardner’s was.
However, not everything in Arthur was so bad. Some of Brand’s dialogue was witty. When the police ask if Arthur was drunk again, Arthur replies “No, I have remained drunk since our last encounter,” which is reminiscent of what Moore would say. Also, there is a humorous moment when Arthur bids against himself at an auction. Helen Mirren is a delight on the screen once again as Hobson the nanny (Hobson in the 1981 film was originally a male character played by John Gielgud, which earned him an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role). The connection between Brand and Mirren is a beautiful bond, and whenever they share the morning newspaper with one another, they become the film’s sweetest moments.
Gretta Gerwig (Greenberg), who plays the Liza Minnelli role, is a beautiful talent, making the film that much better. The moments between Arthur and Naomi are a treat. Arthur tries to impress her by taking her to free places like the one’s she showed him, saying “I found a free thing to show you”. With moments like these, the film had the potential to be good, but crashed and burned instead.
With a script by Jason Bayhamn and directed by Jason Winer (co-executive producer and a director of T.V.’s “Modern Family”), Arthur is a so-so adaptation of a classic film that probably didn’t have to be remade. The effort and talent is there, but the spirit of the original is not.