Movie Review: “Arthur”

Last week Galo and I attended the red carpet premiere of the remake of  Arthur in the famous Ziegfeld Theater in NYC (special thanks to Caitlin, Galo’s girlfriend for the tickets).  For one reason or another, we decided not to give it an in depth review on the podcast this week. As a result, I will be making my first ever attempt at writing a movie review. Here we go…

Arthur, starring Russell Brand as the titled character is a comedy remake of the classic 1981 film. The movie focuses on Arthur Bach, the immature, ambition-less, alcoholic son of Vivienne Bach (played by Geraldine James) and future heir of a billion-dollar company.  Arthur is known around New York City as quite the party boy, even receiving a DUI while driving the famous Bat Mobile in the opening scene. When his irresponsible actions finally start to threaten his mother’s reputation, she decides to give him a final ultimatum: marry the heartless, career-orientated Susan Johnson (played by Jennifer Garner) or lose his billion-dollar inheritance. Despite his clear disinterest in Susan, Arthur knows he needs the money to maintain his wild lifestyle and thus makes the deal. Things become complicated, however, when Arthur meets Naomi (played by Greta Gerwig) and begins to develop strong feelings for her.  With the help of his motherly nanny Hobson (played by Helen Mirren) Arthur must decide between his true love or the money that he has always relied on.

I have to say that prior to seeing this movie, my expectations were not too high. Comedy remakes have never been very successful in reproducing the same level of humor that the originals brought. The idea of remaking a comedy itself seems rather deflating when you realize that the remake will be reusing the same comedic plot of the original and thus it will circle around similar themed and naturally less original jokes. Fortunately for Arthur, I have never seen the original (embarrassing I know) so I cannot make any comparisons.

I must admit that viewing this film at the red carpet premiere also had a major effect on my opinion of this movie. I watched it with over 300 people, including Brand, Mirren, Garner and director Jason Winer so obviously the viewing was very exciting. The theater was electric; everyone was laughing loudly at the jokes and cheering in scenes of triumph. This was by far one of the most enjoyable experiences I have ever had at a theater.

Having set you up with those additional factors, let’s dive into my review.

In regards to the plot, as a remake this movie is inherently far from anything original- a rich man-child must choose between his true love and his money. Despite a rather reused plot and a very predictable ending, Arthur did a sufficient job pulling in the audience with fun, over-the-top actions by the title character. Arthur’s use of famous movie vehicles throughout the movie was a touch that I particularly enjoyed.

I do not want to put any spoilers in this review, but I was surprised by a specific event towards the end of the movie. If you want to know what I am talking about, I have typed the spoiler in white text after this sentence, just highlight it to reveal the spoiler. Hobson dies. I did not like the set up for this event, as I thought it happened too abruptly.  I think more could have been done to prepare the audience for what was going to happen. I must say that I thought it was a nice surprising twist to a rather conventional film.

Usually in movies like these, you see some pretty shitty acting. I think I have seen every movie that Brand has recently been in and I always thought he played the same party/playboy character; Arthur is basically that role so I thought his casting in this movie was a good choice. Brand’s performance surprised me, however. In the opening scene I felt he immediately sent the message that this role would be slightly different; his voice was notably higher and more jovial in this film than his previous ones. Coming into the film, I had my doubts of whether I would be able to sympathize with Arthur because I know that I never had felt any connection to the characters Brand has played before. He succeeds in the role, bringing some great one-liners and heart to the character that I did not think he was capable of. It was up to him to carry this movie and I think he pulled it off.

I had mixed feelings about his supporting cast. Mirren was fantastic as always. Her character was easily the most complicated. Mirren had to convey a tone of seriousness but also had to successfully deliver several zingers of her own. She was definitely fun to watch and brought a necessary extra dose of heart to the movie. Gerwig’s portrayal of Naomi, on the other hand was nothing special. Her character was very “live in the moment” and hipster, reminding me of a poor man’s Summer (played by Zooey Deschanel) in 500 Days of Summer. I love that movie so it is very hard for me get behind a weaker version of Summer. Gerwig is definitely cute and and fun in the movie but I really just felt like anyone could have played Naomi.

I am not going to lie, viewing this movie in the Ziegfeld may have distorted my gauging ability of the comedic quality of the movie. When people laugh at a joke, it’s hard not to laugh along with them. Having said that, this movie was funnier than I thought it would be. The real strength of this film’s comedy came from the one-liners that Brand and his supporting cast dished out. The one-liners were quick-witted and well delivered, with many of them rather adult in content. Some of the jokes fell flat, but it was harder for me to judge which ones considering that everyone in the theater laughed at every single joke.

Arthur is a light and fun comedy that definitely does not deserve to be destroyed by the critics as much as it has been. I have been trying to figure out why it has been getting completely crapped on, and I guess it could be due to the fact that the critics are comparing it to the original.  Like I explained earlier, I didn’t have that luxury. Looking at the comedies currently out in the theater, I’d say this is your best bet, but that’s not really saying much at all.

Is this movie worthy of dropping $10 at the theater? Based on what I hear, I’d say you are better off purchasing the original on DVD most likely for the same price.

Rent it.

 

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