Rated PG-13 for alcohol use throughout, sexual content, language and some drug references, 102 minutes
Brand muddles way through the mediocre, unnecessary "Arthur" remake
If you haven't had enough of British comedian Russell Brand from last week's dreadful animated flick "Hop," then you're bound to go see him in the muddled new remake of the Oscar-winning classic comedy "Arthur," with Dudley Moore forever remembered as the rich, lovable drunk. It's really just a thinly disguised vehicle to showcase Brand's hit-or-miss schtick to the big screen, and Helen Mirren fans should rejoice that she is by far the best thing about the tiresome comedy.
Brand is Arthur Bach, a rich playboy and heir to a fortune and a business empire currently run by his distant, cold mother Vivienne (Geraldine James). Arthur's mother and her many investors are troubled by his rowdy, substance-abuse induced behavior. Arthur's long-suffering nanny Hobson (Mirren) does her best to keep him in line, to no avail. In order to keep the business in the family and for Arthur to keep his fortune, he has been ordered to marry the business-savvy Susan (Jennifer Garner), who Arthur isn't attracted to, and further complicates matters when he falls for a common working girl named Naomi (Greta Gerwig).
"Arthur" is an unimaginative, needless remake that lacks the utter charm and playfulness of the original, not to mention Dudley Moore and John Gielguld, who won an Oscar for his role. Those are mighty big shoes to fill, and the unconventional Brand would seem an inspired choice for the remake, but whereas Moore was well-loved, Brand is still an emerging, somewhat untested talent who many find offensive. Granted, Brand has a few moments of wit and charm, but otherwise his schtick grows tiresome very quickly.
Fortunately, "Arthur" has the brilliant, Oscar-winning actress in Mirren, who makes Hobson her own and nearly steals the show with her effortless one-liners. Though Gerwig makes for a humble working girl, Garner is miscast in a role that was originated by "L.A. Law's" Jill Eikenberry. Some of the updates to the original work well (Arthur sobering up through AA) while others don't at all (a badly executed love scene with Garner and Nick Nolte, you don't belong here) and by the time it delivers it's shabby, predictable ending, you won't care about the time you've invested with such unsympathetic characters.
"Arthur" could've also benefited from better direction than than newcomer Jason Winer, a TV director whose direction feel very episodic here. Above all, they should've known not to mess with an classic, and the original "Arthur," released exactly 30 years ago this year (my how time flies!), was playful, charming and loads of fun. The calculated, muddled remake isn't nearly as charming or fun. Skip this and rent the original instead.
Wes's Grade: C