Arthur (2011)

Directed by Jason Winer
Written by Peter Baynham

After sitting down to watch this film and reflecting on it shortly afterwards, I was somewhat at a loss for words. I had plenty to comment on and plenty to talk about in this review, yet I struggled to begin it. I didn’t know where to begin, or where to go with it. Heck, I was still trying to decipher whether or not I even liked the darn thing. To start off with I have never seen the original starring Dudley Moore. So from that standpoint I have nothing to compare it to, which I often find is the best because otherwise I would just get hung up on it. The culture in Hollywood these days is definitely sequels, remakes and reboots, so I’m not surprised this film got remade, but I still find it totally unnecessary, and that’s having never seen the original.

Russel Brand, aka Mr. Katy Perry, stars as the title character, Arthur Bach, who is the heir to a multi-billion dollar corporation. He is the ultimate playboy and lazy snob. He has grown into a man with the silver spoon in his life, having never had to work for anything and being continuously spoiled by his nanny Hobson (Helen Mirren), who try as she might cannot keep Arthur in order. He sleeps around, drinks too much, and embarrasses his mother and her successful company. As heir, he scares investors, which is why his mother arranges for him to be married, much to the dismay of Arthur, to Susan (Jennifer Garner), who is much more capable of running the company than Arthur ever would be. But when Arthur meets the lowly Naomi (Greta Gerwig), it throws a wrench in the plan because love and maturity was never a factor until now.

To start with I must admit that the film is beautifully cast. I am a fan of Russell Brand and think that in addition to being a great comedian, he is also a capable emotional actor. I loved his performance in Get Him to the Greek, which was much more layered than just a crazy rock star. And here he is the star of the show too. He has such a way with words that showcase his brilliant wit. If I had to imagine one actor for this role it would be him. The same could really be said for Hobson. Mirren is a great actress and I think she has gotten to the point in her career where she is allowing herself to have fun with her choices, but she still brings the emotion and maternal feelings necessary for this role. And indie darling Greta Gerwig lands a much deserved mainstream role as Naomi and she plays a great manic pixie dream girl, albeit a poor one. Jennifer Garner may be the only one who wasn’t outstanding, but she was also not appalling.

However, where the film fails is really the script and direction, two MAJOR things in filmmaking. Jason Winer takes Peter Baynham’s bland, cliched and sentimental script and does absolutely nothing with it. There is no chances taken and each shot, each edit is something I have seen a million times and it does nothing to make the film any better. The story is something that never pops off the screen and while it tries at sentimental, emotional highs, it doesn’t reach too awfully high, but it is high enough that Winer can’t wake us there with his film. All the big moments feel unearned and I think one of the major issues I had was that none of the characters, save the manic pixie dream girl, were remotely likable. Any moment I started to like Arthur, he did something to remind me of his true nature, despicable, just like Susan who marries for money and power, or Hobson, whose pseudo-caring seems too late in the life of Arthur. What was she doing when he was ruining his life? Why only come when he is trying to save it?

But all things aside there are some nice moments in the film, even if they are not ever really earned emotionally. Russell Brand is too funny and charming not to save the film and still make it watchable, if not just for him. And the completely manufactured moments between he and Greta Gerwig, while cliche, still manage charm, which is the films strongest attribute. However, its weakest remains its lead character, who is merely a spoiled rich kid who can’t get his act together. I don’t think I regret seeing the film, though I hardly ever regret seeing anything, but I can safely say it is not something I will be revisiting, and not something that makes me think about going back and revisiting the original, even if it is something completely different. Seriously Hollywood, think outside the box. Straw Dogs? The Thing? Arthur? Haven’t I heard of these films before?

Adam Kuhn

Adam Kuhn was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, where he attended Saint Charles Preparatory School. He studied History at the University of Cincinnati, where he was a contributor of The News Record, the twice-weekly, independent student news organization. He has been writing film reviews and blogging since 2009.

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