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Blu-Ray Review: Noxious ‘Arthur’ Highlights Bad Decisions

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CHICAGO – Have we reached such a politically-correct place in our culture that drinking excessively can’t be seen as humorous even in a dumb comedy? How else to explain the boneheaded decision to basically make the legendary character of Arthur Bach (played by Dudley Moore in the Oscar-winning original and Russell Brand in the potential-Razzie-winning remake) into a man-child instead of an actual drunk? That decision (along with a few others) sunk “Arthur,” recently released on Blu-ray and DVD, before it even shot a frame. Although the actual production didn’t help.

HollywoodChicago.com Blu-Ray Rating: 2.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 2.0/5.0

Arthur (Brand) still drinks but one can barely tell the difference between when he’s drunk and when he’s just being an immature goof. His loyal nanny Hobson (Helen Mirren) berates and belittles the buffoon, but, of course, she really loves him. On the other hand, his mother (Geraldine James) has had just about enough of what Arthur is doing to the family brand and so she tells him that he must marry the upstanding Susan Johnson (Jennifer Garner) to raise his credibility or risk losing the family fortune. Arthur hesitantly agrees despite loathing Susan (something that’s never fully explained or warranted within the script and the casting of the incredibly likable Garner makes harder to understand) but has second thoughts after falling for the poor-but-lovely Naomi (Greta Gerwig).

Most of “Arthur” is just dull, but there are a few scenes that are downright embarrassing, especially for such talented actors as Nick Nolte (who plays Susan’s over-the-top father) and Mirren. Brand is still trying to figure out how to become as big a name stateside as he is in the U.K. and one can hardly blame him for jumping at such a well-known role. He’s not at fault here as he certainly is giving it his all. Similarly, Gerwig does nothing wrong outside of having absolutely no chemistry with Brand. It says something that Luis Guzman as Arthur’s chauffeur pretty much steals the film as he’s the one unexpected, sometimes surreal element of the comedy.

Arthur was released on Blu-ray and DVD on July 15th, 2011
Arthur was released on Blu-ray and DVD on July 15th, 2011
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

No, the reasons that this remake falls as flat as stale champagne can all be attributed behind the scenes. Arthur is a drunk. He’s not a childish buffoon. And turning him into the latter (while also using his drinking as cheap manipulation in the final act) defeats the film. Being an over-the-top drunk is somehow more likable and forgivable than just being a raging idiot. I’ll never understand that. One can fight alcoholism. An idiot like Arthur will probably always be an idiot.

Outside of the bad conceptual decisions, rookie director Jason Winer (adept at network TV comedy like “Modern Family”) directs the comedy with such a leaden pace that it never gets anywhere. There’s NO excuse for a movie like “Arthur” to run nearly two hours, especially when nearly every scene between Brand and Gerwig should have been half as long. The lengthy exchanges between the two merely highlights their complete lack of chemistry.

And that’s what’s missing from “Arthur” on every level — that chemistry that made the original such a beloved hit. Nothing clicks here, like a drink that hasn’t been shaken or stirred. It doesn’t taste right.

Special Features:
o Arthur Unsupervised! - Russell Brand and Director Jason Winer Expose All the Fun Footage, Outrageous Photos and Ad-libs Too Wild for Theaters
o Gag Reel
o Additional Scenes - Over 10 Minutes of Nonstop Russell
o Digital Copy Of Feature Film
o DVD Version

“Arthur” stars Russell Brand, Jennifer Garner, Greta Gerwig, Luis Guzman, Nick Nolte, and Helen Mirren. It was directed by Jason Winer. It is rated PG-13 and was released on Blu-ray and DVD on July 15th, 2011.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

Content Director

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