Drunken billionaire playboy Arthur Bach (Brand) wants nothing more than to have fun. But his mother Vivienne (Geraldine James) would rather see him installed as a responsible, sober part of the family firm. Facing an unwanted engagement to driven socialit
When it was announced that someone was foolish enough to try to remake 1981's confirmed comedy classic Arthur, you could hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth from several continents away. And indeed, to say that the central role of a booze-guzzling playboy (one which shoved Dudley Moore's film career into the stratosphere) is a tough one to live up to is akin to saying Kilimanjaro is a bit of a trek. Add to that the film being tailored to fit Russell Brand¹s personality and popular opinion was that this was a disaster in the making.
That it doesn't completely embarrass itself is an accomplishment alone. While this new take will forever sit in the shadow of Steve Gordon's original, there are enough laughs to keep the new Arthur from being a waste of time. This being 2011, there's a heavier hand at the morality wheel, but thankfully both the laughs and the more effective emotional moments still work. Credit for that partly goes to Peter Baynham, the Borat/Bruno contributor who took on the task of finding a way to make the character work in these recession-struck times.
Brand brings his usual brash, shouty insouciance to the table, this time with a healthy dollop of sweetness. He also successfully inhabits the role, even if Moore did it better years earlier. And thankfully, he is not alone. While his chemistry with Greta Gerwig is average, it's the relationship between Arthur and aide Hobson that really delivers. There are few actors of either sex with enough gravitas to pull off the part originated by an Oscar-winning Sir John Gielgud, so thank goodness director Jason Winer went straight to the most qualified living example and, more importantly, that she said yes. Helen Mirren is predictably brilliant, stealing more than one scene out from under Brand - no easy job when the central figure is a massive attention hog - and steering the focus away in what could otherwise have been The Russell Show. And yes, it's better than Arthur 2: On The Rocks. Which, admittedly, isn¹t saying much.
Brand fan? You'll likely enjoy his antics. But Russellophobics would be better off seeking out the original.