Arthur Movie Review: More Dud Than Dudley Moore

Likely intended for younger audiences who may not have a clue about the original 1981 late Dudley Moore enduring comedy classic that earned multiple Oscar accolades, this new and unimproved Arthur is more dud than Dudley Moore. And hitting abundant sour rather than satirical notes as was the intention back then, as inebriated conspicuous consumption binges characterizing the Greed Decade. And as opposed to lame laughs in this Arthur remake, surrounding the more sobering economic crisis right now.

Russell Brand is Arthur Bach, the perpetually, deliriously intoxicated billionaire playboy and prospective heir to a fortune from his stern corporate dragon lady mom, Vivienne (Geraldine James). A UK transplant giddily squandering vast sums from the family coffers in a NYC inexplicably teeming with Brits, Arthur receives an ultimatum from the Bach matriarch. Settle down and enter into a marriage of financial convenience with ruthless Bach corporate exec Susan (Jennifer Garner), or lose the entire inheritance.

But Arthur randomly falls under the spell of Naomi (Greta Gerwig) instead, a midtown hustler whose own familiar carefree and offbeat personality captivates him. So will Arthur forfeit the billion dollar family fortune to mate with an alluring bottom feeder eccentric from Queens? Of course. Even if the less than charismatic Greta Gerwig is sorry, no Liza Minelli. And despite the displeased vibes from his fretting assigned nanny for life, Hobson (Helen Mirren). Yet another unfortunate switchup, where Helen Mirren is the female replacement for Arthur’s butler, formerly played with impeccable wit by the late John Gielgud, while Helen Mirren is sorry, no John Gielgud. Not to mention a couple of PG-13 plot tweaks, like Mirren scolding Arthur to wash his winky thoroughly in the bath, while Gielgud threatened to go in there and do it himself.

Brand, a former UK mailman and canned BBC radio shock jock, may enjoy a selective fan base but sorry, is no Dudley Moore. And seems almost as if consciously and anxiously aware throughout Arthur, of taking on a role previously inhabited by a larger than life but diminutive star with impossible to fit smaller size shoes. So what transpires up on the screen, is an incessantly frantic Brand badly and over-zealously impersonating a perpetual drunk, while maintaining an annoying affectation of stammering slurred speech in the extreme. In contrast to Dudley Moore slipping seamlessly into the character of an outrageous lush with no idea when he’s had enough to drink, but let’s just say, knew how to handle his liquor realistically in a scene.

The comedy is also diminished by typical Hollywood wrongheaded emphasis on an abundance of pretty faces rather than pungent personality in starring roles. And the disappearance of the robust culture clash contrasting the British versus American sense of humor and quirky behavior that invigorated the 1981 narrative. And why is it that Hollywood never practices what it preaches when pestering characters to decline money in favor of emotional honesty?

On a side note, Arthur is helmed by small screen director, Jason Winer, no pun. Whose other ventures into filmmaking apparently include Samantha Who?: The Amazing Racist, and the upcoming Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23.

Arthur, The Remake: Watered Down Refill On The Rocks.

Warner Bros Rated PG-13: In part, ‘for alcohol use throughout.’ 1 [out of 4] star

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.