What’s wrong with Arthur – and there is plenty wrong with this remake of the 1981 Dudley Moore screwball comedy – can be summed up in two words: Brand and booze.
Brand first. The role of a billionaire man-child with a flair for intoxicated mischief would at first glance seem to be tailor-made for the outrageous British comedian with the quicksilver wit and the party-boy persona.
But it’s an ill fit, mainly because Brand’s eccentricities, oddities and general joie de vivre don’t seem like the product of a few cocktails. In fact, it’s hard to tell when he’s sozzled and when he’s not.
Which leads us to booze. Moore’s original Arthur Bach was a bubbly, boisterous drunk, someone who genuinely seemed to have a blast when half in the bag. And the original movie took a non-judgemental approach to his misbehaviour.
That doesn’t fly three decades on, however. And while someone straightening up and flying right is a worthy goal, it’s also kind of a buzzkill in a comedy if it’s not handled delicately.
So Arthur has a miscast star in a story that has lost a fair bit of its irreverent fizz. That’s quite a letdown, but it’s really only the tip of this movie’s iceberg of inanity.
In telling the story of Arthur, a happily hammered trust-fund gadabout who must choose between love (with the poor but allegedly adorable Naomi, played by Greta Gerwig) and money (he’s being pressured into a business-merger marriage with the domineering Susan, played by Jennifer Garner), every decision the movie makes is either predictably safe or just plain tone-deaf.
Perhaps worst of all, none of the actors seem to be on the same page.
For instance, Brand’s antic nature and Gerwig’s wide-eyed naivety are like oil and water.
Brand and Helen Mirren (as Arthur’s acid-tongued but secretly devoted nanny) have a few touching moments when the story gets serious but otherwise they fail to spark.
And don’t even try to speculate on what the increasingly bearish Nick Nolte is doing here.
Really, Arthur’s only saving grace is the game Garner, who throws herself into her villainous role with admirable abandon.
Her performance aside, this is a movie that seems have had all the fun systematically leeched out of it. Seriously, I’ve had hangovers more entertaining than Arthur.