Saturday, June 16, 2012

Arthur (2011)

Directed by Jason Winer.
2011. Rated PG-13, 110 minutes.
Russell Brand
Helen Mirren
Jennifer Garner
Greta Gerwig
Geraldine James
Luis Guzmán
Nick Nolte
Murphy Guyer
Evander Holyfield

Arthur (Brand) is a fabulously wealthy alcoholic party-boy who fails to comprehend most things beyond what would be expected of a toddler. In fact, he’s still cared for by his nanny Hobson (Mirren). Tired of the exploits that keep landing him on the front page of the newspaper and embarrassing the family, and more importantly its business, his mother mandates that he mary the company’s respectable exec Susan (Garner) and settle down. If he doesn’t he will be completely cut off from the family fortune. Of course, he doesn’t particularly like Susan. To complicate matters even further, he’s become smitten with Naomi (Gerwig), a poor girl who scrapes by giving illegal tours of Grand Central Station to tourists. Yes, this is a remake of the beloved 1981 hit starring Dudley Moore.

In the title role, Russell Brand does the usual Russell Brand schtick. His Arthur is hardly distinguishable from his Aldous Snow, his character in both Get Him to the Greek and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. If you’re a fan of his, this is great. If you’re not, then it’s not. In either case, the movie constructed around him isn’t as good as either of those. Arthur just drags us down a road we’ve traversed many times. It’s that road where all the rich people are cold and calculating, possibly evil, while all of the poor are virtuous and loyal, almost angelic. Even this can work if the story is told in an interesting manner and/or we’re given round characters we feel empathy for. Such was the case with the original, unless nostalgia is getting the best of me. These people are cardboard cutouts of characters in other crappy movies who were caricatures to begin with. It all adds up to us not caring one iota about what happens to them because we’ve already seen them in other movies and didn’t particularly care for them, then.

Whatever the material’s shortcomings, the cast is game. While Brand is vigorously doing Brand, Jennifer Garner is feverishly working the dominatrix in a business suit angle, complete with riding whip. Either I’m jaded by years of seeing her as the good girl or she doesn’t have too many evil bones in her body, so I can’t quite buy it. Still, the effort is there. Helen Mirren gives her character dignity, sincerity and depth beyond the lines she speaks. It’s a typically wonderful performance from her. Greta Gerwig as Naomi is the exception. For pretty much the entire time she’s on screen her eyes are big as saucers and she can’t remove the perma-grin. Regardless of context, most of her lines come across as if she’s saying “Gee Willikers Arthur, that was neat!” Of course, during her sad scenes she’s worse. I could “see” her acting. That’s never a good thing.

Arthur plays out exactly as it is set up to right from the start. It’s a straight-forward entry into the ever-expanding romantic comedy genre. That might be okay if it were funnier. This is the major difference between this and the original. That one has more laughs. Most of the jokes here don’t quite work. Aside from the novel appearance of a not-so-heroic Batman and Robin plus two by the gaudiest of all Batmobiles, our new Arthur fails to stand out from the crowd.

MY SCORE: 4.5/10

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