DVD Review: Arthur (2011)

by | Aug 9th, 2011 | 11:10AM | Filed under: DVD Reviews, Movies

DVD Review: Unless you’re hopelessly devoted to the Dudley Moore original, it’s hard to dislike Russell Brand’s harmlessly shambling, amiable, and often amusing remake of Arthur.

The following is a reprint of redlbog’s review of Arthur on its theatrical release this spring. Arthur is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from redbox.

This new Arthur is a lightweight, inebriated lark that, like its alcoholic playboy protagonist, doesn’t work too hard to make much of itself, but nor does it ask much of the viewer. Just giggle and smile and embrace it as a genial, well-pickled rom-com.

How much you’re able to do that is going to depend on two things: 1) How you feel about the 1981 version with Dudley Moore, and 2) your general reaction to (and tolerance for) Russell Brand.

No doubt Dudley Moore is very funny and much warmer and more lovable than Brand, but the original Arthur itself is a slight, uneven, goof that’s lifted immensely by Moore and Gielgud’s performances–much of the love for it today is nostalgic (and in part a yearning for a less-PC age when drunks and drinking and driving were seen as funny, not sad and deadly).

Personally, I laughed at and enjoyed both versions about equally.

As for Brand, in the spirit of Fitzgerald I’m able to hold two opposed ideas about the British loon in my mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. I think he’s hilarious—Get Him to the Greek was one of my favorite comedies of last year. I also completely understand anyone who finds him off-putting or outright annoying. 

Here Brand is Arthur Bach, billionaire man-child and dedicated drunk who rolls recklessly through his family’s wealth (and wine cellar), attended to by a lackey (Luis Guzman) and sternly steered clear of complete hedonistic self-destruction by his nanny Hobson.

Taking over the John Gielgud role is the great and droll Helen Mirren, proving once again that being the great and droll Helen Mirren means you can stroll regally through the silliest of stuff and still make it feel authentic and effortless.

As the story goes, Arthur’s CEO mother (Geraldine James) tires of his soused shenanigans and serves him an ultimatum: Marry a scary corporate courtesan of her choosing (Jennifer Garner, with crazy father Nick Nolte in tow) or live in poverty with the little people.

Arthur’s commitment to maintaining his life of luxurious excess is further complicated when he meets and falls for one of those little people: a charming and “wacky” waif played by the always-stellar Greta Gerwig (Greenberg, No Strings Attached).

Brand and Gerwig have an odd, almost hesitant push-and-pull chemistry. She’s a terrific actress, but he seems like a hard actor to connect with in a scene. Brand’s got those big, expressive eyes and exclamatory eyebrows, but maybe it’s the steep guardrail cheekbones that hold you at bay. (Or that manic, high-pitched whine. Or the rock-star narcissism?)

And where Dudley Moore’s diminutive height and lovable manner made him feel warm and cuddly, Brand cuts a more imposing, even aggressive figure—you feel like he and his hedonistic scowl are constantly lunging at you.

Still, Brand puts forth an earnest and eager effort, his R-rated mind and mouth only occasionally stymied by a PG-13 rom-com. (This new Arthur is directed by Jason Winer, a Modern Family vet.)

If Brand sometimes seems like a one-trick rummy, I still find that trick a funny one (especially the comic actor’s smart asides and drop-ins). Aided by Mirren and Gerwig and once again playing a lush with a liver of gold, Brand stays upright and on his feet for Arthur—even when stumbling about in Dudley Moore’s shoes.

Arthur is available on DVD and Blu-ray from redbox.


More from the cast of Arthur at redbox:

6 Responses to “DVD Review: Arthur (2011)”

    • Currently 2/5 Stars
    Posted on August 9, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    I had seen this film in theaters and it was a waste of money due to its stupidity and there’s no meaning to this film. I suggest to those people who want to rent this film: don’t rent it. You’ll be in a disappointment in the end!

  1. Fiirvoen
    Posted on August 10, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    I really want to see this film. I loved the original (which I only saw about two months ago).

    • Currently 1/5 Stars
    Posted on August 10, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    Oh, my, gosh another bomb. Is Hollywood running out of good screen writers. This movie was so so bad

  2. Katherine
    Posted on August 11, 2011 at 11:06 am

    I enjoyed this movie. I loved the original film. I felt this one was more emotional and lighter toned than the Moore version. Perhaps because the Hobson role was female and Brand was so touchingly fragile at her death. I did not like, nor understand the reasoning for Guzman’s role – and I like Guzman as an actor, but here he just filled in space. I preferred the feisty, low-life character of Liza Minelli to the treacly sweet character of Greta Gerwig. Overall I liked it – still like the first better, but I was entertained.

  3. Karen
    Posted on September 13, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    I won’t even give this movie a chance… how can you change Hobson’s roll to a female and how could that idiot even try to fill Dudley’s shoes? It’s like casting Steve Martin to play Inspector Clouseau… don’t get me wrong I love Steve Martin but that was the same as this a joke and disgrace! Leave the classics alone! The part that pisses me off most is that all kinds of young people (and I’m not old) will go see these butchered remakes and like them… what crap.

  4. Locke Peterseim
    Locke Peterseim
    Posted on September 13, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    Karen, it’s perfectly valid to say you have no interest in seeing the Russell Brand version of Arthur, but when you say there’s no way Mirren and Brand could match Guilgud and Moore WITHOUT having seen the film, it just comes off judgmental and narrow-minded. I don’t think everyone has to see the new Arthur, and I think those who love Moore’s version and don’t want to see anyone else in the role are welcome to feel that way. As I said in my review, I don’t particularly prefer one over the other, and I can appreciate the merits of both. But you don’t get to criticize the new version and its players without having seen it and not get called on it.

    As for Brand being an “idiot,” I think you’re mistaking PLAYING an idiot with being one–something the late Dudley Moore (who was much more erudite and cultured than many of his on-screen characters) would have been very sensitive about.