25 April 2011
The plot remains intact, as Brand plays Arthur Bach, the alcoholic heir to an enormous business and an incredible fortune. Accordingly, Arthur lives life to the fullest, despite not having any practicality in the real world. When shareholders start to get anxious about Arthur's antics, his mother attempts to marry him off to a maleficent heiress called Susan, just as he happens to fall in love with a "poor person" called Naomi.
A number of beats and gags are recycled wholesale from the 1981 film into this equivalent, 30 years later, but I can at least give this film credit for not being a verbatim rehash. The unfortunate effect of the sporadic callbacks, however, was to remind me about how good the original film was. It's almost like this remake refers back in order to stay afloat, but personally, my nostalgia for the original dragged it down like an anchor.
Retooled as a vehicle for Russell Brand's rising star in the States, a lot of the subtleties of the story go out the window. I'm not pretending that Dudley Moore did a lot else but fall over and laugh drunkenly, but there was point and purpose and a consistent character in that. Despite some nice emotional scenes that show that there's more to him, Brand is really rather witty for someone as supposedly sheltered and childish as Arthur, That makes Arthur less of a showcase for his spurious acting range- which is up there with UFOs and Bigfoot, if his last few films are anything to go by- and more of a chance for him to cut loose and be funny as himself. Again.
It's not that Mirren isn't good as Hobson, now reconfigured as a more obviously affectionate figure, because her maternal chemistry with Brand makes him up his game too, so their scenes together are easily the best parts of the film. I also enjoyed the venomous performances by Jennifer Garner and Nick Nolte, even if they seem to completely disappear in the middle part of the film as we trot through some non-sequential situational comedy. Hell, in their absence, I'd go so far as to say Helen Mirren anchors the whole thing. She's pure class in her role, and she makes the best case scenario out of the repetitive adaptation.
Distinctly less classy is the way in which everything has now been branded. Not Russell Branded, but licenced with advertisements for other Hollywood properties. Arthur begins the film dressed as Batman and driving the Batmobile from the Schumacher films. Later we see the DeLorean from Back to the Future, a Darth Vader voice changer helmet (now available in all good retailers!) and a cinema that loops Looney Tunes cartoons all day long. It's crass in a way that the rest of the film can't be with a 12A certificate, and ultimately, it annoyed the shit out of me.
Arthur is now playing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Arthur, why not share your comments below? The film's biggest mistake? They didn't use that theme song...
I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.