As the title suggests, “Arthur” focuses on the life of one man. Unfortunately, that man is played by the unappealing British comedian Russell Brand, who’s desperate for laughs throughout the story. Brand replaces Dudley Moore, who was nominated for an Academy Award for the original film. Brand has little of the charm that made the original “Arthur” worth seeing and most of the supporting cast are wasted in this remake as well.
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Brand stars the titular rich playboy set to inherit millions of dollars from his family. He spends his days sleeping with beautiful women and generally wasting his life under the supervision of his nanny, Hobson (Helen Mirren). When his mother threatens to take away his inheritance unless he marries a corporate executive named Susan (Jennifer Garner), Arthur begrudgingly agrees. At the same time, Arthur meets and starts falling in love with Naomi (Greta Gerwig), a New York City tour guide who is known by the police for not getting the proper permits for her tours.
The whole remake feels like a platform to showcase Brand’s abilities as a comic actor and as a leading man. Unfortunately, he tries too hard with most of the story’s lame jokes. He always seems to be waiting for the audience to laugh but most of the things he says aren’t funny.
The story takes some wrong turns on its way to get to the few laughs it merits. One scene feels like it belongs on the show “24,” not in a comedy remake. Nick Nolte, appearing as Susan’s sadistic father, decides to threaten Arthur with a table saw. He says that the blade will stop moving when it senses liquid and he tests this theory by almost cutting Arthur’s tongue in half. Aside from that disgusting scene, the entire storyline about Arthur’s fiance Susan is more disturbing than delightful. Susan is an obnoxious business woman who wants to marry Arthur so she can run his family business, an unfortunate arrangement that Arthur’s family approves of.
Jennifer Garner’s despicable character is a far cry from Jill Eikenberry’s original Susan. In that film, Susan seemed more naïve than manipulative. In the remake, Garner is a genuinely loathsome human being. Both Brand and Garner are ill-chosen substitutes for the actors from the original film. So is Helen Mirren, who replaces John Gielgud in the role of Hobson. Along with its Oscar win for best original song, Gielgud won an Oscar for best supporting actor for his role. It’s unlikely that this remake will be nominated for anything other than a Razzie. The only actor who comes close to filling her role well is Greta Gerwig, who replaces Liza Minelli. Although Minelli is surely missed, Gerwig is infectuous as Linda–it’s no wonder that Arthur would fall in love with her.
It’s still unclear why this comedy needed to be remade. The original was amusing and Brand adds nothing to it. “Arthur” doesn’t work as a remake, nor does it work as a vehicle to further Brand’s comedic career. It’s unfunny and features a few nasty characters that have no place in a light-hearted comedy like this.
“Arthur” may be a desperate character but the film about him didn’t have to be.