Arthur Bach (Russell Brand), a drunken playboy who still has his nanny, Hobson (Helen Mirren) at 30, is told by the head of the Bach family - his mother Vivienne (Geraldine James) to marry the capable girl who works for her, Susan Johnson (Jennifer Garner) daughter of self made construction millionaire Burt (Nick Nolte). But not only is he unattracted to Susan, he meets lovely Naomi (Greta Gerwig) a girl running an illegal little tour guide business to support her writing and falls in love with her. At stake is his almighty inheritance, which he will lose unless he makes Susan Mrs Bach.
Review by Louise Keller:
The humour doesn't always fire, but overall the film has its charms - and a sweet innocence. The fact that Russell Brand is irritating works in his favour in this occasionally endearing remake of the hit 1981 film starring Dudley Moore. But it's not Brand who steals the film, it's Helen Mirren as Arthur's faithful nanny and confidante Hobson (originally played by John Gielgud), who grounds the film and delivers some of its funniest moments. There's Mirren wearing a Darth Vader mask or standing up at an AA meeting, telling Arthur to remember to wash his winkie in the bath or salvaging the never-ending mess that her alcohol-fuelled ward coughs up.
Yes indeed, the rich are different as we meet brattish, childlike Arthur, dressed up as Batman in his batmobile on his way to his a black-tie charity fundraiser thrown by his disapproving mother (Geraldine James). She is not amused. But it is clear that there is no relationship between mother and son: they shake hands when they meet. Arthur lives in his own little world, complete with magnetic floating, circular bed and long brass binoculars through which he peers at normal folk as he soaks in his bubble bath. Squandering wealth is what he does.
In a lovely piece of casting, Jennifer Garner is Susan, the socialite construction heiress hungry for status, who becomes the chosen one in an arranged marriage. Watch out for the scene when her rough-tactics father (Nick Nolte) scares the living daylights out of poor Arthur on a skyscraper construction site involving an electric saw. The fancy restaurant proposal scene is a hoot as is the scene when Susan becomes magnetically stuck under Arthur's bed.
We see no sparks when Arthur, wearing an Abe Lincoln hat, meets his dream girl Naomi (Greta Gerwig), conducting illegal tours around Grand Central Station. She says she finds magic in the mundane but the lack of chemistry between the two is one of the film's biggest problems. By contrast, there are fireworks between Arthur and Susan and the rich and genuine affection between Arthur and Hobson's 'Mary Poppins with menopause'.
The filmmakers go to great lengths to remind us that this is a fairy tale and that the rich in the story are far removed from reality by making them caricatures - possibly to distance itself from thoughts of bad taste financial excess in the wake of the recent downturn. We have to wait until the very end to hear the Oscar-winning Arthur's theme but nonetheless it is there. New York looks a treat and by the time all the fun and games are over, we don't mind that the moral about money not being able to buy happiness is a load of bollocks.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's like this: Arthur Bach (Russell Brand) is a 30 year old drunk whose father died when he was three. His mother, Vivienne (Geraldine James) has never much cared for him in any sense, leaving the task to family nanny Hobson (Helen Mirren) - who continues to look after the heir to the Bach family business empire. To ensure that the investors don't get skittish, Vivienne threatens to cut him off from his fortune unless Arthur marries Susan (Jennifer Garner), a girl who could be trusted, if only she bore the Bach name.
It's a pretty dark scenario, you'd have to agree, but comedy needs a dark place as the grounding or it's just fluff. Out of this material the screenplay fashions a redemptive rom-com, in which the drinking is not so serious as to get in the way and the mother-son relationship is treated as a running gag. These creative decisions undermine the film's power, but enable the themes to float below the surface.
The 1981 original starred world famous comedian Dudley Moore as Arthur, a character who must attract our sympathies on some level - and one we have to believe. Russell Brand almost gets there, but it's hard to believe his characterisation of Arthur. It's played for the surface effect, right until the third act.
So we see his drinking as a combination of anti-authority statement and fun loving by-product of being rich enough to get away with the consequences. But he is innocently wealthy; he scatters money like confetti to anyone who asks. He overbids at auctions, and gifts his purchase to a man who really wants the item.
Likewise blunted is the personality of Vivienne; Geraldine James makes something of an overstatement with her, holding us not so much in disapproval as in disbelief. These are flaws in direction, though, not performance.
The three key women - Helen Mirren, Greta Gerwig and Jennifer Garner - all deliver their dimensional characters with zest and help propel the film's dynamic, as does Luis Guzman in a juicy cameo as Arthur's chauffeur. Direction of these characters is much more focused.
Although meant as mere entertainment, Arthur has some points to make about the cleansing power of love and its opposite, the destructive power of its absence. It may not come across coherently, but it's a worthy thought.
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CAST: Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Jennifer Garner, Greta Gerwig, Geraldine James, Luis Guzman, Nick Nolte, Christina Calph,
PRODUCER: Chris Bender, Russell, Brand, Larry Brezner, Kevin McKormick, J. C. Spink, Michael Tadross
DIRECTOR: Jason Winer
SCRIPT: Peter Baynham
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Uta Briesewitz
EDITOR: Brent White
MUSIC: Theodore Shapiro
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Sarah Knowles
RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 21, 2011