Review: Arthur

24 04 2011

Today was a day of firsts – I saw my first traveller grabbing a girl, I thought that was a myth! I also witnessed a Chinese family putting a nappy on a small dog. All this from a trip into town to see the film I’ll be reviewing today.

Arthur is Russell Brand’s seventh major movie and is a remake of the 1981 classic comedy starring Dudley Moore. Regrettably, I have never seen the original but it’s sometimes an advantage to judge a film on it’s own merits. The movie also stars Helen Mirren, Jessica Garner and Greta Gerwig who was in the disappointing Greenberg. Brand plays Arthur Bach, the 30 year-old manchild heir to a billion dollar fortune who is as liberal with his money as he is with his sexuality. Cleaning up his trail of destruction is his long-suffering nanny, Hobson, played by Helen Mirren. The plot is pretty straightforward and I’m guessing it’s a direct lift from the original, as quite a few 80’s comedies seemed to revolve around dilemmas concerned with million dollar ultimatums – Trading Places, The Secret of My Success, Brewsters Millions. I could pretend to be intelligent enough to launch into a grand thesis debating 1980’s capitalist consciousness, but I’m not and it would be uber boring. Anyway, after years of being an irresponsible piss-head, Arthur is told by his mother – who is also the CEO of the corporation, that he’ll be disinherited from the family fortune if he doesn’t marry an up and coming, already-privileged,  ambitious, deranged employee (Garner).

Brand has other ideas and this is reinforced when he meets a young lady who he immediately falls in love with. Needless to say, hi-jinx ensue and Arthur invites you to go along for the ride. Except you don’t. You see, Arthur has lots of whimsically amusing moments where Brand does his usual Brand-thing and says things that everyone is thinking but too self-conscious to say and it’s okay. There were around 10 laughs in the movie which in the grand scheme of comedies is not too bad. The chemistry between Brand and Mirren is also very good which might have something to do with working on in The Tempest together earlier this year. Mirren dictates the emotional terms in the relationship and the audience really believes that she is someone who has been caring for this miscreant throughout his life. Scenes between the two actors are highpoints in the film but therein lies the problem; Brand’s range is incredibly limited. Whenever a scene involving some level of gravity or sincerity arrived and Brand needed to hold it up by himself (no pun intended),  he wasn’t up to the challenge.  But it’s not a sleight on him, as I really believe the guy isn’t like that in real life. Being quietly forlorn doesn’t seem to be in his locker as you always feel he’s two seconds away from making a witty quip. Garner, on the other hand did a really good job playing the aggressive, sociopath and it provides the contrast to illustrate my point: I’ve seen her in other movies where she’s played the sweet, vulnerable woman such as Juno, and that’s the difference between an accomplished actor and a flavour of the month comedian who acts on the side.

The little moments Brand has with his love interest, Naomi, played by Gerwig, are charming and it’s probably due to Brand being a very charismatic guy – we’ve all heard the stories. But the plot is a bit thin and towards the end of the movie, I felt like around 5 hours had passed since I first sat down which isn’t a ringing endorsement.

Plus points are there in this movie and I think Arthur could have been a lot worse without the reassuring screen presence of Mirren and Garner but I became disengaged and I wonder how many more Russell Brand vehicles will be released before the public grow disinterested.






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