Arthur: A Talented Cast Does Not Good Chemistry Make

9 04 2011

A remake of the 1981 film starring Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli and John Gielgud, Arthur stars Russell Brand in the title role, as well as Helen Mirren, Luis Guzman, Jennifer Garner and Greta Gerwig. Here’s the breakdown:

Wealthy and spoiled billionaire Arthur Bach (Brand) leads a life of blissful ignorance. Content to drink himself into ridiculous (and expensive) situations, Arthur knows nothing of the real world. Other than his chauffeur Bitterman (Guzman) and his trusty nanny Hobson (Mirren), Arthur has no friends. That is, until he meets Naomi (Gerwig). But when his mother (Geraldine James) threatens to cut him off unless he marries business partner Susan (Garner), Arthur must choose between love and money.

The Monkey: While Brand can often come off campy, abrasive and one-dimensional, his turn as Arthur was surprisingly genuine and endearing. His childlike outlook was wonderfully juxtaposed with his copious drinking and adult sensibilities.

The writing was well done and the jokes were above par, often witty and surprising. One can’t argue Brand’s natural talent for comic timing and delivery. But it was Helen Mirren and Jennifer Garner that nearly stole the show. Mirren has been no stranger to comedy of late (RED, a recent Funny Or Die short film) and she proves she has comic chops in Arthur. Her understated, heavy-lidded performance was wonderful and remarkably funny; but more than that, there was a third-dimension not often seen in secondary comic characters. Her emotional scenes were just as compelling as her comedic ones, which contributed to the movie’s unexpected depth and layering.

Garner also delivered a noteworthy performance, stepping out of the traditional leading lady role and filling the shoes of the movie’s villainous Susan. Conniving, power-hungry and unstoppable, Garner’s Susan was delightful and the chemistry between Brand and Garner was, shall we say, magnetic (there’s a floating magnetic bed involved at one point). In fact, they worked so well together onscreen, it was a shame their two characters didn’t end up together – it would have been much more believable (more on that below).

Aside from the wonderful performances, Arthur managed to incorporate a fair amount of heart into an otherwise comedy of one-liners. Brand had even more chemistry with Mirren than with Garner and the two of them lit up the screen, both in their comic scenes and their more serious moments.

The Weasel: I’ve been surprised to see that many reviewers see Arthur as Greta Gerwig’s shining moment, claiming she nearly stole the show. I’m dumbfounded. She was awful. Her blank-eyed stare and mumbled lines were distracting at best, inane at worst. There was absolutely zero chemistry between herself and Brand; in fact, there were times when  it seemed Brand was physically in pain just by being near her. Not in a million years would Arthur have given up his billions for Naomi. And when you have a pivotal relationship that is so utterly unbelievable, the whole movie starts to collapse. You were supposed to cheer for her and Arthur, but I wanted Garner’s Susan to crush her and ride off into the sunset with Arthur instead.

Luis Guzman was horribly underutilized, to the point of nonexistence and Nick Nolte (as Susan’s father) was awkward beyond belief, his scenes being some of the most ridiculous and unnecessary of the entire movie – and when you have a drunk Brit flying through Manhattan in the Batmobile, that’s saying something.

And while there were nice moments of heart, they were unconnected and ad hoc, unable to contribute to an overall sense of coherent plot or character development.

A seemingly unnecessary remake, Arthur manages to pack in some clever wit and some endearing emotional moments. But despite the valiant efforts of Brand, Garner and Mirren, Gerwig sank this movie in an irredeemable way.

3 Death Stars out of 5

What do you think? How does the remake compare to the original? Do you like Mirren in comedic roles? What’s your opinion of Greta Gerwig in this movie? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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8 responses

12 04 2011
scarletsp1der

I was wondering what your thoughts were on this one! I have yet to see it, but your review sums up what my initial ideas of the film are. Glad to hear that Brand was good. (Not a Brand fan myself). Sad to hear of Guzman’s minute involvement. But I still look forward to watching it!

Nice job!

12 04 2011
Dustin

Can’t wait to read your review! 🙂

27 04 2011
scarletsp1der

dustin, apologies…I have been sooo super busy this month…and things aren’t slowing down for me. But I got Arthur’s review up today, fyi. Hope you are doing well my friend!

28 04 2011
Dustin

Busy over here too! I’ll check out the review asap! 🙂

18 09 2011
Tom

Cool film. I like it!

28 02 2012
Dustin

Glad you liked it, Tom!

17 02 2012
Colin 'Chauffeur' Manchester

I wasn’t expecting to like this one but was pleasantly surprised. I also did not expect to like Brand in real life, but I did some work for him once and again, was pleasantly surprised!

28 02 2012
Dustin

That’s cool that you got to meet Brand in real life! Glad he didn’t disappoint 🙂

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