Theatrical Review: ARTHUR
Writers: Peter Baynham, Steve Gordon
Director: Jason Winer
Cast: Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Greta Gerwig, Jennifer Garner, Luis Guzman, Nick Nolte
Studio: Warner Bros.
ARTHUR is another film in a long string of Hollywood remakes where we, as a movie-going audience, should just say "thanks, but no thanks." The original ARTHUR isn't a classic by any means, but it does carry with it a certain level of fondness from viewers and is one of the more iconic Dudley Moore performances. This remake doesn't serve to pay much of an homage to the quality of the original, nor does it really bring enough originality to justify it having been made.
It's not to say that this film isn't without its charm, as some of the casting is pretty strong. Very early on in the film, right when you may not be able to take any more, ARTHUR plays a dirty, dirty trick on the audience by having cast Greta Gerwig as the love interest for the titular character, and it's almost impossible to not like a Greta Gerwig movie. Almost, but this will certainly test your limits on how much you can tolerate a movie that she appears in.
Arthur Bach (Russell Brand) is the heir to a billion dollar fortune, and having a seemingly unlimited budget at his disposal has allowed him to spends his days drunk and driving famous cars from movies (see: the Batmobile). He's got with him a loyal servant - Luis Guzman's Bitterman who, despite clearly being a Latino, inexplicably carries that bizarre moniker. His nanny Hobson (Helen Mirren) is the woman who takes care of Arthur the most (and always has), as his mother is constantly working and was clearly almost never in the picture. Having been embarrassed for the last time by her son's exploits, Vivienne (Geraldine James) gives him an ultimatum - he is to marry Susan (Jennifer Garner), the Bach employee who would be good for business, or be cut off from the money that has provided the lavish lifestyle he's come to enjoy his whole life. After agreeing to marry Susan, Arthur meets a native New Yorker named Naomi Quinn (Greta Gerwig, and he must face the decision of whether to go forward with his life living for money or for love.
The film is cliche-laden, and a mess all-around, and the performances aren't particularly indicative of anyone putting forth much of an effort, save for a select few. Written by Peter Baynham (BORAT), the story it tells is formulaic, and anyone who saw the trailer that featured two of the most over-used trailer songs ever (David Bowie's "Rebel Rebel" and The Who's "Teenage Wasteland") shouldn't be expecting anything too original to appear in the film itself. It's got a few funny bits, and some of the overly extravagant set pieces are very cool (should any of us ever become this rich), but overall the quality as a complete film just isn't there.
All of that not withstanding, the film still features the wonderful performances of Helen Mirren and Greta Gerwig. In the last few years, Mirren has shown off an incredibly charismatic and funny side in some of the characters she’s played and it’s great seeing her in more and more comedic roles. Despite the lackluster nature of this film, she does admirably well here. Greta Gerwig, a popular indie actress (admittedly one of my favorites out there today) is her usual charming self here. As Naomi, she exhibits a delightfully doe-eyed and carefree nature and it’s not hard to see why Arthur Bach falls for her.
To the credit of the final product, the movie has more heart than the trailer seemed to indicate, and to a certain extent you root for Arthur, but that may be because he’s hurting Naomi, and how could anyone knowingly hurt her? Overall, though, it’s a remake we didn’t need to a film that’s got a beloved enough audience. It’s doubtful anyone would have a huge interest in seeing the original after seeing this new ARTHUR, but they might, if only to see if it’s better.
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