2011 Running time: 110 Certificate: 12 Not yet rated

Synopsis

In this rejig of the 1981 comedy hit, Russell Brand uncorks his inner Dudley Moore to play Arthur Bach, the boozy playboy who must either marry a corporate monster (Jennifer Garner) or lose his billion-dollar inheritance. More sobering yet, the ultimatum falls into his lap at exactly the same time as the working-class girl of his dreams (Greta Gerwig). Luckily, Arthur's nanny Helen Mirren is on hand to offer wit and wisdom in a gender-twist on the role that won Sir John Gielgud an Oscar.

Director

  • Jason Winer

Cast

  • Russell Brand

  • Helen Mirren

  • Jennifer Garner

  • Greta Gerwig

  • Nick Nolte

Review

Like most remakes - and indeed the character himself - Arthur is pretty redundant. Still, if you're going to remake a middling comedy about a reckless hedonist with a drink problem, you may as well cast a middling comedian who was formerly a reckless hedonist with a drink problem.

Back in 1981, anyone in the mood for a romantic giggle couldn't fail to be won over by the foolish charms of 'cuddly' Dudley Moore, the acid tongue of dear Johnny Gielgud, and a theme song of pure Camembert from Christopher Cross.

Unfortunately, Russell Brand is about as cuddly as a fibreglass cactus and, after 30 years, it's the target audience that appears to have got caught between the moon and New York City.

Too childish for grown-ups and too risqué for kids, it's hard to tell who Arthur 2011 is aiming to please.

The story is identical, with Brand's mega-rich, overgrown schoolboy enjoying a life of meaningless sex, endless parties and joyrides in his own Batmobile while his seen-it-all-before nanny Hobson (Mirren) cleans up the mess.

But his antics are bad for the Bach family business. So as CEO, Arthur's frosty mother (Geraldine James) arranges to tame him with a marriage to executive barracuda Susan (Garner). If he refuses, he'll be cut off without a penny.

While considering the cost of his principles, Arthur bumps into sweetie-pie Naomi (Greenberg's Greta Gerwig) who makes ends meet as an unlicensed New York tour guide but really wants to write children's books.

He closes Grand Central Station for her; she shows him that the best things in life are free. But the billion dollar question is: is Arthur strong enough to stand up, man up... and sober up?

Peter Baynham's script will provoke the odd indulgent smile, but with more tumbleweed moments than titters, you'd hope for more invention from a writer with Borat and Bruno on his CV - and the director of cult sitcom Modern Family.

Brand improvises his way out of duller spots, but while the man-child shtick is fine in small doses, stretched over a couple of hours, it gets rather trying.

Arthur is not the only one who spends most of the film wasted. Unsurprisingly, Mirren adds pith and dignity to proceedings, but Garner does herself few favours with a cringeworthy turn featuring the most ill-advised pussycat impression since George Galloway lapped it up on Big Brother.

As her scary father, Nick Nolte's beady eyes are fixed solely on the pay-cheque, while Luis Guzman also faces a comedically uphill struggle as Arthur's chauffeur. And the cameo from Evander Holyfield does not make it this year's Hangover.

On the upside, it's nicely shot and there's guilty, vicarious pleasure to be had from the stuff that Arthur's money can buy. But ironically, it's probably best appreciated after few snifters.