Release Date: April 8th, 2011 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Jason Winer Actors: Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Jennifer Garner, Greta Gerwig, Nick Nolte, Luis Guzman
he results of major plot points haven’t changed, just the situations that deliver us to those memorable moments. In this way, “Arthur” succeeds, offering us a reminder of the poignancy and hilarity of the original 1981 film. Yet while the story itself remains largely the same, many of the minor details and events have been remodeled for the worse. Supporting characters have been excised, comedic meetings reduced to paltry slapstick, and clever dialogue substituted for outlandish buffoonery. Is crashing the Batmobile into a golden bull statue really the grandest scheme devisable to introduce the title character? At its best, this reimagined “Arthur” evokes fond remembrance of a comedy classic – at its worst it questions the necessity of remakes in the first place.
Heir to the colossal fortune of the Bach industries, Arthur Bach (Russell Brand) drifts through life with few cares, fewer responsibilities, and not a moment of sobriety. Perpetually inebriated, Arthur spends his days frivolously spending vast quantities of money and his nights participating in escalating escapades of mischievousness, all of which his devoted nanny Hobson (Helen Mirren) must mop up. When his mother Vivienne (Geraldine James) presents him with an ultimatum – marry snobbish socialite Susan Johnson (Jennifer Garner) or lose his $950 million inheritance – the spoiled playboy reluctantly gives in and agrees to matrimony. Immediately upon his reluctant proposal to the elated Susan, he finds a kindred spirit in Naomi (Greta Gerwig), a tour guide with a similar love for spontaneity and carefree fun. Now torn between his harebrained customs and the woman he’s falling for, Arthur must attempt to grow up for the first time in his life.
It’s difficult to judge a remake that is so similar to its predecessor. In the case of “Arthur,” the characters are still interesting, the story is still heartwarming, and the humor is still funny. Although the individual jokes have been modified (and not all of them, either), every significant action is retained, creating very few new elements – even the dialogue is similar. Because of this, the film is incredibly derivative, repetitive, and unoriginal. 30 years hasn’t been enough time for the filmmakers to develop enough alternative ideas for this remake to be worthwhile.
Arthur’s toys are slightly updated, graduating to a Batmobile, a DeLorean from “Back to the Future,” Scooby’s Mystery Machine and the Dukes of Hazzard’s General Lee. He’s also a more destructive drunk, and arranged wife Susan is an antagonist instead of simply boring. Ultimately, however, too much is the same: Brand attempts his own version of Dudley Moore, Mirren succeeds at playing Gielgud, and Gerwig doesn’t even try to be Liza Minnelli. The love story and predicaments are identical, making the entire ordeal a distraction – seeing the same characters act out the same situations from another movie. The themes of maturing, recognizing the power of love over money, and familial independence are still present and equally enjoyably examined, as well as the involvement of tear-jerking tragedy amongst lighthearted antics. But there are no real improvements, and almost no major differences (Brand does strip down to his skivvies more than Moore ever has), resulting in an epically unnecessary venture.
– The Massie Twins