Ed. Note: Please welcome Kurt Loder to our growing family here at Big Hollywood. Thanks to our friends at Reason.com, we’ll be co-hosting Kurt’s terrific film reviews regularly, and as a lifelong admirer of The Voice of Intelligent Reason on MTV, this is an unqualified banner day. — J.N.
The most hysterical thing about the new Arthur (as opposed to the old Arthur, the 1981 movie starring Dudley Moore) is the instant wave of hatred it has drawn from the nation’s 10 million movie reviewers. Their objections are several. Many appear to feel that the new film sullies the memory of the first one–as if that agreeable entertainment were some sort of sacred text. Others find the picture formulaic (it’s a romantic comedy, a genre always high on critical hit lists) and decry the non-judgmental depiction of its titular multimillionaire in the midst of our current economic meltdown (as if the original Arthur had not itself been released on the cusp of a deepening recession–and as if Hollywood had never produced grand, sumptuous musicals in the pit of the Great Depression). There are also those indignant about the movie’s comedic view of alcoholism (as if William Powell’s martini-marinated Thin Man films had never bestrode the box office), and more yet who resent the presence here, in the old Dudley Moore role, of Russell Brand, a more-than-usually irritating English import, in their view, who’s being force-fed to the indiscriminate moviegoers of this great nation.
I must pronounce myself baffled. Walking out of the movie before I became aware of this monolithic vituperation, I thought it was a fresh and more-than-usually funny rom-com, and that the transformation of Brand from the amusingly addled rock star of Forgetting Sarah Marshall into a full-fledged romantic lead had here been completed. In addition, for a love interest he’s been engagingly paired with onetime indie queen Greta Gerwig (whose onetime admirers are now bewailing this Hollywood sell-out). I can’t imagine anyone who enjoys well-made romantic comedies not enjoying this one.
The story remains approximately the same. Brand’s Arthur is a good-hearted Manhattan wastrel, a round-the-clock lush and heir to a vast fortune. Arthur uses his money for fun–not just accumulating a fleet of pricey cars (including a flame-spewing Batmobile), but also withdrawing thousands of dollars from ATMs to simply give away on the street. Unfortunately, his frosty mother (Geraldine James) has about had it with her son’s inebriated antics, and has threatened to turn off the money spigot unless he finds a suitable girl to settle down with. In fact she’s found one for him–a shark-hearted heiress named Susan (Jennifer Garner, cutting loose as a bratty schemer). He is even provided with an ostentatious engagement ring to accompany a marriage proposal. (Taking one look at its weighty diamond he says, “It looks like an ice rink for a mouse.”) Trapped in his luxurious lifestyle, Arthur reluctantly agrees to pop the question.
Read the rest of this review at Reason.com.