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By: Addison Wylie

When an actor is “in”, the studios usually want to strike while the iron’s hot and sometimes conduct an experiment. This experiment being whether or not this particular individual will be able to carry a feature film. The last project that attempted to do this was the Isla Fisher vehicle Confessions of a Shopaholic. The remake of Arthur reminded me of one of these financial experiments. You have a higher power looking at actor Russell Brand and trying to figure out whether he can make the leap to lead roles. So, they take a look at his past roles in films like Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him To The Greek and they observe that he is stealing most of the scenes. With remakes being a high demand at the moment, they take both the remake factor and the Brand factor and try to incorporate the two. Cut to present day and we have Arthur; an absolutely agonizing and unfunny experience that is nothing but a money grab and a Russell Brand showcase trying to convince movie goers that the man is versatile.

Arthur Bach, played by Brand, is loving his life. Not only is he a fun-loving Playboy, but he’s also rich. He can buy anything he wants, do anything he wants, he is completely invincible. All this comes crashing down after an arrest where a drunken Arthur and his chauffeur Bitterman, played by Luis Guzmán, crash a Batmobile dressed up as Batman and Robin. Arthur’s Mother Vivienne, played by Geraldine James, sits Arthur down and explains to him that she wants him to marry his ex Susan, played by Jennifer Garner. Vivienne is convinced that once Arthur is married, his playful attitude will settle down. But, Arthur doesn’t want to marry Susan. However, if Arthur doesn’t wed, he’ll be cut off from the endless supply of money. Just when Arthur agrees, he runs into a charming tour guide named Naomi Quinn, played by Greta Gerwig, and instantly falls in love. Arthur then must decide what’s worth more. Love or money?

First thing’s first, I’ve never seen the original Arthur starring Dudley Moore (I know, I know). However, when a classic film gets remade, it’s supposed to convince people to watch the original in order to pick a preferable version. Arthur made me want to check out the original but not to see where the current film excels but to find out how this current production fumbled so badly. I’m an Arthur outsider and even I smell something fishy.

I presume the Arthur character is supposed to be a little bit of a pot stirrer but also very charming, funny, and down to earth. Brand’s interpretation of the character is to present Arthur as this renegade buffoon who would run mad through the streets if he didn’t have someone watching over him 24/7. Brand isn’t charming, he’s obnoxious. He isn’t funny, he’s loud and bothersome. While watching Arthur, you forget that this is a remake of another film but you do start to think of other man-child movies.

Take Billy Madison, a movie that has a similar character in this case. Madison may have its haters but the reason why that movie is sharper and funnier than Arthur is that the main character has a charismatic screen presence. Although Sandler makes the character outrageously immature, he still has some sort of motive and his deliveries add to the punchlines. Billy Madison also has older, wiser folk looking after him and they were, in one way or another, rooting for Billy to graduate school because of that charisma and integrity.

With Arthur, Brand is acting childish; throwing away hundreds of thousands of dollars, making scenes in public places, talking back to people and meanwhile other characters either laugh or roll their eyes knowing that Arthur is just being goofy. They are one step away from flicking their wrist and saying “Oh, Arthur.” Outside from his Mother’s decision to take away his money, there are no repercussions towards Arthur’s inane behaviour. Sure, he gets arrested many times and he pays for his bail every time, but after a while you would think the police department would be more strict. In fact, the day after the Batman arrest, Arthur causes a scene by yelling and hassling two policemen while Naomi is present and, again, if this scene carried on for another 30 seconds, the cops would be flicking their wrists and Naomi would utter an “Oh, Arthur”. I’m not specifically looking for realism but I want some sort of reminder that these characters are human beings.

No one is acting natural or even comfortable here. Brand feels the need to overact and make it known to the whole world that he can carry a movie, the supporting cast all look embarrassed, and even the background actors are mugging towards the camera in every scene. It’s not just the actors lacking direction though. This entire production lacks any direction or purpose. Director Jason Winer doesn’t direct so much as place the actors in front of the camera and give them two-dimensional feelings or cliches they should act out. It’s even worse that the script, written by Peter Baynham, is nonsense and is about as deep as a puddle. All the rich people in this film are all personas we’ve seen in other, better movies and all the lower end characters have to take on quirks in order to make them cute. Gerwig for example, who has been a stand out in previous work, is given lots of quirky mannerisms and hobbies in order to make the character adorable. The quirks are not needed because Gerwig’s presence is very light hearted anyways. However, after Baghead, Greenberg, and now this, Gerwig may take this as a sign to step out of her comfort zone as an actor.

The comedy can’t even be seen in a positive light if one was to look at it from a technical stand point. Cinematographer Uta Briesewitz has trouble framing shots and because if this, the film isn’t even nice to look at. Even though Arthur takes place in the glamourous New York City, Briesewitz manages to make the landscapes look drab. Also on the disappointment docket is Editor Brent White. White seems to think that the only way to connect scenes is with a cross dissolve. The characters will be in the middle of a conversation and suddenly, Gerwig and Brand are being faded out to show a shot of buildings. A note to White and the screenwriter: even though you may think a cross dissolve is JUST a transition, it still has to have some sort of purpose. Overall, whether one is an actor or working behind the camera, this movie is a tremendous misstep for everyone involved.

I could go on for, what feels like, hours about why I loathed this movie but it’s best that we move on. It’s not worth getting hung up on. The studio experiment theory is my own understanding and who knows if it’s true. However, after having my time wasted watching this train wreck, it has to be the only explanation; it just has to be.

Categories: Reviews
  1. jonty
    April 9, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Russell brand….. you love him or hate him yeah? What really astonished me, was that a film critic confesses that they have never seen the first “Arthur”. The original was genuinely funny and stands the test of time. The sequel was awful though. Anyway, please see Dudley Moores film as soon as possible. Only then can we take you seriously…….

    • Niki
      April 10, 2011 at 8:52 pm

      You have no idea what you are talking about. Wylie is the best critic around and is not pretending to have watched every movie ever made. Good job wylie!

      • April 11, 2011 at 5:30 pm

        I’m flattered! Thanks for the kind words, Niki! That means a lot.

  2. April 9, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    There are still oodles of movies I have yet to see but the fact that I haven’t seen the original Arthur shouldn’t make my review of the remake redundant.

    I didn’t want to hide behind a false persona and say that I had seen the original or not say anything at all. As a critic, you have to be honest with your audience. I’ve read a good number of Arthur reviews and I would say that a good third consists of critics stating they have not seen the original. I’m most certainly not by myself on this.

    However, I will taker your advice and try to seek out the first as soon as possible. It sounds like fun. Thanks for reading my review.

  3. Jo-Anne King
    April 10, 2011 at 11:25 am

    I was looking forward to watching this movie because I remember the original being quite entertaining. I do wonder if the idea of a man/child throwing money away and behaving irresponsibly is less tolerated today than it was when the Dudley Moore version was released, although, it seems to me that the original was more of a romantic comedy than just a series of humourless “pranks”.
    Thanks for the review, I’ll save my money for something a little more worthwhile and wait for the dvd release.

    • April 11, 2011 at 5:30 pm

      Thanks for reading, Jo-Anne! When you do rent it, tell me what you thought of it and if it even comes close to the original.

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