Tuesday, 19 April 2011


Warners Bros. Pictures
Now Showing

Your enjoyment of Arthur, a remake of the 1981 comedy starring Dudley Moore and Liza Minelli, will no doubt be in direct proportion to your appreciation of comic actor Russell Brand. I have almost a zero tolerance for the guy – he's on my list of supposed funny men whom I simply don't find funny – so it's no surprise I found the film an underwhelming, though surprisingly non-painful, experience.

Like in the original film, Arthur is an obscenely wealthy Englishman with a drinking problem, bedding a succession of women and enjoying a suspended adolescence. Indeed, his nanny Hobson (Helen Mirren, twice in one week stepping into John Gielgud's shoes), who has raised him since birth, remains at his beck and call in his New York penthouse.

But then mummy dearest (Geraldine James) informs Arthur that unless he straightens up and flies right, he can kiss goodbye his access to the family's $950 million dollar fortune. The main stipulation: that he marry Susan (Jennifer Garner), daughter of a self-made construction magnate (an awkward Nick Nolte).

As luck would have it, that same day Arthur meets Naomi (Greta Gerwig), a pretty young thing who runs illegal tours of New York's Central Station, cares for her widowed father and dreams of writing children's books. Naomi is the sweet to Susan's sour, and would be impossible to like if she weren't played so unassumingly by Gerwig.

Sadly, Gerwig, Mirren and Garner aren't given all that much to do, only enjoying the spotlight when Arthur happens to bring them into his gin-soaked orbit. As the title implies, it's all about Arthur and, more specifically, Brand, who you'll either find charming or irritating.

But in his defense, Brand's a lot less irritating in human form than he was as a CG rabbit in the recent family film, Hop. He's even a lot more amusing in the flesh, which he proved at the Australian premiere of Arthur, where he was cheeky, funny and charming. Unfortunately, the film is only intermittently so.

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