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Arthur movie poster

Arthur: Movie Review

Genre: Comedy
Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Jason Winer

Starring: Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Jennifer Garner, Greta Gerwig, Luis Guzman, Nick Nolte, Geraldine James
Released by: Warner Bros. Pictures

In Short: Russell Brand and Helen Mirren try way too hard in this remake of the Oscar-winning comedy from 1982. The laughs are few and far between, as Arthur the lovable alcoholic billionaire is transformed into a chip-carrying AA member.

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A Stumbling "Arthur" Remake

For those who have never seen the original "Arthur" — you know, the one made in 1981, starring Dudley Moore, John Gielgud and Liza Minnelli, the one that won two Oscars and is an all-time comedy classic — perhaps the new "Arthur" will suffice. But it is doubtful, really.

This 2011 version stars Russell Brand as the drunken billionaire who refuses to grow up and replaces the Oscar-winning genius Gielgud (as the wry butler) with Helen Mirren. She's Arthur's nanny, but still delivers some of the exact same lines that Gielgud did in the first film. In fact, there's a lot of the original dialogue lifted directly from that first version, and the plot is basically the same as well. Arthur is forced to marry snotty Susan (Jennifer Garner this time out) in order to keep his fortune, as the marriage is key to furthering the family business. Since the business made him so rich in the first place and he loves all that money, he agrees. But then he falls in love with someone else, a girl from Queens with no money at all. The love triangle is formed, and the plot thickens.

Russell Brand and Jennifer Garner in Arthur Russell Brand in Arthur

The problem with the new "Arthur" is that is just isn't very funny. Sure, Brand is likable and reasonably believable as the overindulged 30-year-old party boy who refuses to grow up, Greta Gerwig is charming as the poor-but-happy gal he falls for and Mirren is her usual dependable self, but the laughs are few and far between. Instead, this "Arthur" is mostly a slightly corny romance with some hit-you-over-the-head-with-a-hammer moral lessons thrown in for good measure. And to add insult to injury, Arthur even ends up going to AA meetings. What?

It's as if director Jason Winer, who is best known for his work on the ABC-TV show "Modern Family," and screenwriter Peter Baynham decided to drain most of the fun out of the original. Seriously, there are more laughs in the first priceless, irreverent fifteen minutes of the Dudley Moore version than in the whole 110 minutes of the new one. Just to make sure memory served, we went back and screened the original again, and it held up like a champ, filled with great jokes all the way through. The same will not be said in thirty years for the new "Arthur;" in fact, it may not be remembered past its opening weekend.

Reviewed by Jenny Peters


(Updated: 04/07/11 CT)

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