Saturday 12 May 2012


The next step for Russell Brand: Movie star was to find a suitable star vehicle for him. Taking the role of a partying, hard drinking playboy would be a perfect fit, right? Right?

Arthur (Russell Brand) is a layabout scoundrel, doing nothing with his life except frivolously spending his vast inheritance and bedding a never ending parade of gold digging women. But when he meets Naomi (Greta Gerwig), a tour guide not immediately keen to take advantage of his wealth, Arthur finds himself smitten, and considering giving up his fortune to be with her instead of Susan (Jennifer Garner), the equally wealthy daughter of an businessman his mother would like him to marry.

If you're going to step into the signature role of a much beloved comedian, Dudley Moore's Arthur has some pretty big shoes to fill (figuratively speaking, obviously). The character has been altered to fit Brand's schtick and brought up to date, Brand's Billionaire playboy much more of a stilted man-child than Dudley Moore's incarnation, his Batman-tastic opening scene the perfect example of that. Dudley Moore would just be carrying a bottle.

As well as being updated to a modern, recession hit world, we also have Helen Mirren's stoney-faced butler as Arthur's surrogate parent and closest confidant. Taking the place of the notably male John Gielgud, the character of Hobson works better as Arthur's mother stand-in, the matriarchal dynamic a much better fit. The scenes of her and Brand are a lot of fun, a clear friendship between the two bouncing off the screen.

"A very specific British pervert", Arthur 2011 is a bit like Brand, really. Articulate, animated and just bordering on arsehole, he has a great command of the English language and is not afraid to use it. The early scenes do start to get a little bit tedious as Arthur charms his way around the 'common folk', but just as he starts to test your patience a bit, in walks Greta Gerwig to steal the show.

As a tour guide/writer of children's fiction, she's charming and utterly delightful. A different character to Liza Minnelli's love interest in the original, if you were forced to choose between 958 million dollars and true love, Greta Gerwig (and her character, I suppose) might just be the girl to sway your decision towards the latter. Slowly but surely stealing Zooey Deschanel's Queen on the Manic Pixie Dream Girl's title, her move away from independent films (she's one of the leading ladies of mumblecore) into more mainstream fare at least means we'll see a lot more of her.

It strives for an emotional weight that inevitably detracts from the comedy, piling on cutesy scenes like the romantic dates in Grand Central Station, mocked superbly in last year's Justin Timberlake/Mila Kunis romantic comedy, Friends with Benefits. It's this refusal to do anything daring and non-formulaic that unfortunately leaves Arthur 2011 as nothing more than a passable romantic comedy. Don't get me wrong, if I was a billionaire playboy I'd probably be driving around in a DeLorean too, but I'd not expect people to pay to watch me for entertainment.

As for Brand, he's shaping up to be a likeable movie star, but this may not be the ideal role for him. There's definite ties to Brand's real life wild man persona and own personal demons, but the character's been diluted a bit too much, rendering Arthur 2011 as a bit of a stupid boy. Tracking his personal growth into a fully fledged human being takes a bit too long, although the end result does leave us with a more rounded, charming gentleman. For Dudley Moore's version of Arthur, his problems with alcoholism were tackled in the 1988 sequel, Arthur 2:  On The Rocks, a film which may well have the greatest subtitle to a film ever. Despite its best efforts, I doubt we'll be seeing a sequel to this one.


Special Features:
+ Gag Reel
+ Arthur Unsupervised - ramshackle behind the scenes footage
+ Additional Footage

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