In this fresh new look at a classic story, Russell Brand reinvents the role of loveable billionaire Arthur Bach, an irresponsible charmer who has always relied on two things to get by: his limitless fortune and the good sense of his lifelong nanny and best friend Hobson (Helen Mirren), to keep him out of trouble. Kind-hearted, fun-loving, and utterly without purpose, Arthur spends every day in the heedless pursuit of amusement. But when his unpredictable public image threatens the staid reputation of the family foundation, Bach Worldwide, he is given an ultimatum: marry the beautiful but decidedly unlovable Susan Johnson (Jennifer Garner), an ambitious corporate exec who can keep him in line, or say goodbye to his billion-dollar inheritance and the only way of life he knows.
It's a deal Arthur would be inclined to take...if he hadn't just fallen for Naomi (Greta Gerwig), a New York City tour guide who shares his idealism and spontaneity. The independent Naomi sees Arthur not only for who he is, but for who he could be, and finally gives him a reason to take charge of his own life. All he needs to do is stand up for what he wants. But at what cost? With some unconventional help from Hobson--the one person who always believed he could do anything--Arthur will take the most expensive risk of his life and learn what it means to become a man.
A Pale Imitation
Though the first film now seems somewhat dated, Dudley Moore's pitch-perfect performance as the poor little rich man who preferred the view of life through bottom of a vodka bottle is still hilarious and touching. In the remake, I found Russell Brand (a comic actor that requires an acquired taste) to be a pale imitation.
The new film has faults, mainly the lack of chemistry between this Arthur and his poor but sweet love interest. And the spin, the fresh take, consists of having a staid British nanny rather than a staid British butler. Yeah, that was a real stretch. Had the producers really wanted to be freshen up the tale, they should have had our sodden hero discover a depth in Jennifer Garner's Susan. Though her character is supposed to be soulless, the actress' smile betrays her. There's a nice person in there somewhere. (Personally, I would have married her, then taken her to a revival.)
There are some funny lines and several visual gags work, but the production lacks charm, the heartfelt moments seem forced, its lead actor is best enjoyed in small doses, and the entire production, despite the presence of Helen Mirren, is classless. For example, there's the climactic scene in the church as Arthur shucks all the money, and his clothes, in order to declare his independence. Of course, Susan is supposed to be a monster, but does any woman deserve abandonment at the altar? And, as I mentioned, Arthur strips out of his tux clear down to his bikini briefs. As this was filmed in a real New York church, I wondered which denomination would allow an actor to strip down to his underwear in their sanctuary. How'd that get approved?
ARTHUR is rated PG-13 for some crude sexual references; four or five obscenities, including two from kids; the hero utters "Jesus" in a decidedly unreligious manner. And God's name is profaned by the Jennifer Garner character; some slapstick buffoonery and at one time, the bride's father threatens Arthur with a buzz saw; Arthur gets punched by a jilted bride; it is stated several times that Arthur has spent time with prostitutes; there is a party where Arthur is found in bed with one of the hookers; a whole lot of drinking; Arthur does end up at an AA meeting, having gotten off the booze).
Intended Audience: Older teens and up