ARTHUR is a long line of jokes and improvisation; some funny, some not. The surprise is that it does feel, at times, that it is just on the cusp of becoming something special. There is comedy here, and truth, but it comes in small doses and doesn’t stay for long. A re-imagining of the premise that first hit the silver screen in Dudley Moore’s “classic” ARTHUR (1981), this film never quite achieves what it is striving for – to make a selfish but sweet billionaire alcoholic into a sympathetic character. It is a simple formula that has worked in a number of films, but here it doesn’t connect.
Arthur, played by Russell Brand (doing a weak Dudley Moore impression for much of the film), has been a constant embarrassment to his Rockefeller-esque family. His antics must finally come to an end, though, when his behavior leads to investors jumping ship. His mother gives him an ultimatum: Marry Susan (Jennifer Garner), a woman who works at their company and who leads a flawless public life, or give up his inheritance. There’s something scary about Susan that isn’t immediately clear. She is, by all appearances, the natural heir to the family business. Arthur must make a choice – but it doesn’t take him more than a few seconds to cave in and agree to the arrangement.
Arthur lacks any real backbone until he meets Naomi (ably portrayed by Greta Gerwig), a down-on-her-luck, sweet woman who illegally gives tours of Grand Central Station to make money to take care of her father, a recent widower. She also writes children books, which works out well because Arthur is essentially just a big child. (increased sarcasm during that last sentence)
I’m sorry, but the story is so contrived that it just loses me here. I can see the pitch for this movie – “It’s Arthur, but with Aldous Snow, and high-tech toys, and movie cars… what else do you need?” And some producer must have jumped at the chance, even with Director Jason Winer attached. Winer has had success on the small screen with the critically acclaimed (but generally pandered) KATH & KIM, and more recently with several episodes of legitimate hit MODERN FAMILY, but this movie isn’t going to do anything for his career.
The true stars of this film are Jennifer Garner (13 GOING ON 30) and Helen Mirren (THE QUEEN). Garner seems to relish playing a bad guy, and most of her scenes are fun and even a little scary. Mirren plays Hobson, Arthur’s Nanny and the only real family he’s ever known. Their moments are genuinely touching, and if it weren’t for the other 75% of the movie, I would tell you to run out and pick it up.
This is one of those movies that is a puzzle with only border pieces. The cheap stuff on the outside all comes together fairly easily, but it doesn’t have any guts to bring the whole thing together. As it stands it’s a bit of fluff that will make you laugh and touch you, but only if you can get past all of the glaring flaws.
Video: (1080p, 1.85:1 Widescreen) The transfer is good, and the movie has some really great artistic influences as book-ends that look fantastic in high definition.
Audio: (DTS-HD Master Audio English 5.1) The disc sounds really good and there is good use of sound, but nothing truly breathtaking.
Arthur Unsupervised (11:17) Director Jason Winer and Russell Brand appear especially proud of their film here. It’s a shame that this short featurette, while vulgar, is quite a bit funnier than the film.
Additional Footage (10:21) The deleted scenes. A pretty poor offering. Nothing here that would have made the movie any better. The box says “over 10 minutes of nonstop Russell.” I like Russell Brand, but… egh.
Gag Reel (01:22) This is easily the worst gag reel I’ve ever seen. Don’t waste your time.