Author: Jack Greenbaum
Movie remakes are not necessarily bad things. “Batman Begins” was able to delve into a completely new and different realm of the superhero’s mythology. The 2001 “Ocean’s Eleven” told a much more complex and witty story than the 1960 version. The problem with remaking a film, however, is that if it does not improve upon the original and there is already an intelligent, beloved iteration, the re-imagining appears superfluous and fatuous.
Such is the case with “Arthur,” an attempted update of the 1981 comedy but with far less appeal. The original film was a critical and commercial smash, garnering two Oscars and grossing just shy of 100 million dollars. It also confirmed Dudley Moore as an established Hollywood star.
In this version, Brand plays Arthur Bach, a wealthy dipsomaniac who learns to love and is confronted with the choice of money or happiness. When his mother (Geraldine James) forces an ultimatum upon him: marry Susan Johnson (Jennifer Garner) or lose your $900 million inheritance, Arthur finds himself frustrated with the prospect of sharing his life with someone else. Yet, things become increasingly complicated when he meets Naomi (Greta Gerwig), a working-class tour guide that Arthur actually feels an emotional connection to.
He pursues Naomi and pushes Susan away in a number of quirky ways. In a grand romantic gesture, he rents out Grand Central Station for a first date with Naomi. He attempts to reject Susan by leaving her stuck to his magnetic bed. Both these instances amuse, but do little to drive the plot.
Throughout all his antics, Arthur is aided by his doting nanny Hobson (Helen Mirren), the person who cares the most about him and is the only one he listens to.
His idiosyncrasies demonstrate how completely unwilling he is to subscribe to any reality that is not his own, and while jokes are made about his puerility, his maturity level throughout the film remains at that of a solid seven year old.
While Arthur is a character, it seems Brand really plays himself, with his tendencies for the absurd and funny asides, an act that appears charming on an eight minute talk show segment but quickly becomes stale in a feature film.
The audience never really feels too concerned for Arthur. He’s rich, good-looking and lives without regret. No matter what happens, it’s pretty apparent that nothing horrific will befall him. Either way, he gets to be with a beautiful woman, neither of which he really displays an overwhelming emotional connection to. Arthur has no ambitions, no emotions and therefore no one wants to root for him.
Once Hobson becomes ill, Arthur begins to realize that he is posed to lose his sole friend and confidante, and the audience views a rare glimpse of emotional depth.
Without the performances of Helen Mirren and Greta Gerwig, “Arthur” becomes grandiose and superficial with nothing to connect to. Despite their performances, “Arthur” still lacks in story and in structure and leaves audiences wondering why there needed to be a remake at all.
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