This is the remake of the Dudley Moore classic of the same name starring Russell Brand in the lead role. I’ve not seen the Dudley Moore version so was able to go in with limited expectations. This film got trashed by critics and audiences alike, but I feel like it was being compared to the previous version which I feel is unfair. This film is not terrible. Brand is charming and funny as the lead character of Arthur, a pampered millionaire who’s never worked a day in his life. Helen Mirren is very funny as Arthur’s nanny. She looks like she’s having a lot of fun with Brand, who must be a lot of fun to work with. Luis Guzman also stars as Arthur’s best friend and Jennifer Garner rounds out the leads as the woman Arthur is expected to marry if he wants to keep his trust fund money.
The biggest problem with this film is that it went for a PG-13 rating. Russell Brand really had to rein his usual self in, as he is normally much more risqué and raunchy. As someone who has seen Russell Brand’s stand up live, I know the R rated version is far more entertaining that the watered down PG version. A movie like Get Him to the Greek is a far better vehicle to showcase Brand’s talents.
In saying that, this film is quite charming. Mirren is very funny as Arthur’s nanny since he was a baby. She has great comedic timing and I’d really like to see her do comedies more as she really excels here, especially her chemistry with Brand. You can tell they really like each other away from the cameras. Luis Guzman is having fun too as Arthur’s best friend and chauffeur. The opening scene is very funny where Brand and Guzman dress up as Batman and Robin and go cruising around Manhattan in the batmobile from Batman Forever.
This is a fun film. I feel like it could’ve been better if Brand’s leash was loosened just a little bit. He seems very restrained trying to secure a PG or M rating for this film. I think it would’ve been a smarter move to let Russell Brand loose and if that led to an R rating, then so be it.
We’ve watched two remakes so far– Alfie, and now Arthur— and I have not seen the originals of either. I feel like I need to watch both. I know, I know… they are classics and I really should have watched them before their remakes. At least I know the famous title song from each. That counts for something, right?
After watching Jude Law blunder through Alfie, I fully expected Russell Brand’s Arthur to be crap as well. I also remembered it not doing well in theaters or with critics, so my expectations were low. But you know what? I actually kind of liked this movie. It’s certainly not one of the greatest comedies ever written, but there were enough laughs to keep me entertained. I’d even watch it again.
I can understand why it didn’t do well, though. Firstly, it’s based on a classic film starring Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli. While Russell Brand and Greta Gerwig are great together, they are no Moore and Minelli. Secondly, it really feels like Brand is being held back here. His comedy is of the raunchy, F-word heavy variety. Unfortunately it’s getting harder and harder to find R-rated comedies, because movie studios push for PG-13 so they can sell more tickets. Thirdly, the “overgrown man-child” character is bordering on cliche. It may have been fresh in 1981, but today it’s everywhere (Zach Galifanakis in The Hangover, Billy Madison, Step Brothers, Buster Bluth from Arrested Development, Troy and Abed from Community).
Still, Brand has many genuinely funny lines, and there is a certain joy to his portrayal of billionaire Arthur Bach. Helen Mirren is delightful as his nanny/surrogate mother. Their interactions are quite magical, and you get a sense of a real, loving relationship between the two. Jennifer Garner is OK as the woman Arthur must marry to inherit his family fortune. She’s not played a unlikable character before, to my knowledge, and I think she struggles not being an affable leading lady. Greta Gerwig is adorable as Arthur’s love interest. Perhaps this is partly why Brand’s raunchy persona was reined in: Gerwig is just too cute and perky for really dirty humor. Maybe if someone with more of an edge were cast there may have been hope for this to be an R-rated comedy.