With the remake business, you’re already (at least usually) against a brick wall. What’s remade aren’t usually flawed films, but movies that are regarded well enough to be liked, but aren’t classics (those films are ripped off wholesale). And so there’s a remake of the 1981 Dudley Moore film Arthur thirty years later starring Russell Brand. Why now? Probably because Brand seems like he could be a movie star, and Get Him to the Greek did good enough business. The remake (which also stars Helen Mirren, Greta Gerwig and Jennifer Garner) is about a spoiled rich kid/drunk who finds true love, but is supposed to marry someone else. It works, but almost in spite of its narrative. My review of the Blu-ray of 2011’s Arthur follows after the jump.
Brand is the titular Arthur, who starts the movie by crashing his Batmobile (it looks like the Joel Schumacher version), and getting arrested. His mother (Geradine James) gives him an ultimatum: if he doesn’t marry Susan Johnson (Jennifer Garner), she’ll cut off his money. Susan is willing to put up with all of Arthur’s shenanigans as long as his name guarantees her his fortune – which is immense. Though he’s cute when he does his shtick, Arthur is looked after by his nanny Hobson (Helen Mirren) and driver Bitterman (Luis Guzmán). To complete his phony marriage, he meets-cute Naomi Quinn (Greta Gerwig), and his destiny changes, as he falls in love and decides that he’d rather be with Naomi than be rich.
Can he clean up? Who cares? This is a formula picture, a formula that’s self-evident as a remake. Perhaps there’s freedom in that, and though the film doesn’t have the same discoveries as the original, it works because the cast is charming. This is the first time Russell Brand has had to carry a film, and he’s got a winning personality in the film. The key is that you never hate him for being rich and spoiled. He’s a child and a drunk, but he’s got a good spirit – which partly comes from Hobson. And the film wouldn’t work if Mirren and Brand didn’t play off each other well. They do, and though the relationship may be changed and more sentimental, it works.
But more than that, this film suggests that Greta Gerwig can play in the mainstream. She had a marginal role in No Strings Attached, and did the indie-but-not-indie thing in Greenberg, but as a romantic interest in this film she is nothing but winning, and I fell for her as quick as Arthur did. The stuff with Jennifer Garner and her father (played by Nick Nolte) is over the top, but it’s never so offensive that the movie becomes terrible.
But the framework of the forced marriage is dull and obvious. The film works in spite of it, which is the film’s biggest drawback – the narrative is garbage and doesn’t earn it’s more forced maudlin moments. The performers have enough life and wit to make some of those scenes work well enough, in some ways everyone is having fun playing between the notes of the absurd plot. I didn’t see the film theatrically, and that may have helped. Some films just work better at home, and though the filmmaking is mostly routine – that hurts less at home when you’ve got enjoyable leads. And that’s all this is – a showcase for talented people. That’s enough.
Warner Brothers’ Blu-ray comes with a DVD and Digital copy. The film is presented widescreen (1.78:1) and in 5.1 DTS-HD surround. Extras on the disc include the making of/additional scene reel “Arthur Unsupervised” (11 min.), then there’s additional footage for seven scenes (10 min.), and a gag reel (1 min.).