Stepping into the shoes, well, the bottle, of Dudley Moore’s famed character was going to be met with ridicule from some pundits and fans who cherish the 1981 original. Well, don’t worry people. For Russell Brand does a charismatic job with Arthur. I only wish the same could be said for the screenplay and direction.
Director Jason Winer seemed to let Brand roam free in Peter Baynham’s familiar screenplay. At times it works perfectly. In other moments, the atmosphere needed to be enhanced rather than just relying on the energetic Brand. Even the acting talents of Helen Mirren and Greta Gerwig are held in check until the story begins to wind down. Whether one agrees with everything stated above is debatable. But one thing is for sure, Russell Brand will get audiences smiling and laughing enough times to make this 110 minute exhibition worth a look.
The overall theme and pertinent info from 1981 remains intact. Arthur (Russell Brand) is 30, and the sole heir to a mega-fortune. A mega-fortune he’s been irresponsibly going through for years now. His toys range from a floating magnetic bed to a collection of movie cars (Batmobile, Mystery Machine, etc) . Since his mother (Geraldine James) spends her days running the company that replenishes his bank account, she has little to no relationship with her childish son. That job is left to Arthur’s nanny Hobson (Helen Mirren). Hobson has been by his side since he was born and is able to stomach the naked girls and the steady ingestion of alcohol that enter his penthouse. Plus, he has a driver and playmate in Bitterman (Luis Guzman), who joins Arthur while he’s out on the town making an ass of himself. Or as he calls it, “fun.”
Arthur is content with his life. In fact he loves it. And his mother generally lets him do what he pleases. That is until he starts making Charlie Sheen-like headlines all over the city. Leading company investors to start pulling out when they realize that one day Arthur will inherit the proud company. Mommy decides to present her son with an ultimatum. In order to save face with investors, mother would like Arthur to marry the successful Susan (Jennifer Garner). Susan is an employee with the company, so everyone will assume their business affairs are in good hands if she‘s running the show. Problem is Arthur hates Susan and is actually taking a liking to the simple Naomi (Greta Gerwig). However, he hates being poor more than anything, so he reluctantly agrees to partake in a charade engagement to the woman he can’t stand, in order to keep playing with his billions. But like all good drunks, he believes he can do both and casually tries to figure out a way to make this scenario happen.
For those that never saw the original, this script resembles a pattern found in Adam Sandler’s Billy Madison. The difference being, the party started to slow down in Sandler’s man-child adventure, while Brand is allowed to stay obnoxious until the final few minutes. His take on the Arthur character brings in a little Jack Sparrow charm. It’s just a shame that he is put out on an island all by himself, since the script fails to support him during numerous sequences. To his credit though, he’s able to keep this piece from sinking, even though he finds himself treading water here and there.
As mentioned, his co-stars aren’t much of a help either. And it’s not their fault. Jennifer Garner is only given one moment that entertains the audience. Her mogul father (played by Nick Nolte) is essentially worthless as a character. Luis Guzman is criminally under-utilized. The dynamic between his character and Arthur, could have led to pure hilarity, but doesn’t. What this all amounts to is missed opportunities. One understands that the writer and director wanted to keep this from turning into a slapstick gimmick. But the emotional attachment to the characters fails to register anything with audiences until the final act. Which wasn’t the case in the original. It boils down to committing to a form of execution. When they try to dabble in a bit of everything, the flick will fail to project the appropriate tone.
In the end, the Arthur remake survives on the spirited performance from Russell Brand. Once you get used to his comedic delivery, he nails it more than he misfires. Too bad we cannot say the same for the hapless screenplay and direction.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5