Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Arthur (2011)

MPAA (PG-13) CNS/USCCB (A-III) Roger Ebert (3 stars) Fr Dennis (1 1/2 stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Ebert's review -

Arthur (starring Russell Brand, directed by Jason Winer, screenplay by Peter Baynham, story by Steve Gordon) is a remake of the 1981 original (starring Dudley Moore, written and directed by Steve Gordon). Neither version is particularly filled with edifying values. I suppose I prefer the remake over the original because I’ve generally liked Russell Brand while I’ve never appreciated or understood Dudley Moore.

Dudley Moore’s career was at its height when I was a teenager/young adult and I simply found nothing of value in his "middle-aged high society drunk" persona ("Ah, the sufferings of the rich..."). Now twenty years later, I’m middle aged ... but I still don’t particularly like or understand Dudley Moore’s characters. I do find Russell Brand’s often whiny "I’m a celebrity, you owe me" persona that he’s played in a number of movies (Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek) a little more accessible to Moore’s if only because he plays the roles as if he were a "rock star" and I’m more familiar with the expected antics of a "rock star" than those of someone who’s spent his/her life traveling between a Manhattan penthouse and the Hamptons. Still, if a remake of Arthur really needed to be made (I did not like the original), then Russell Brand was probably a really good choice for the remake’s title role.

Now about the characters and the plot: Arthur is about a "filthy rich 30-40 something boy-man" Arthur (played in the original by Dudley Moore and in the remake by Russell Brand) who insulated by his money has never grown up. In each case, he’s pressured by family to marry a woman of his social class who the parent/family believes would finally "make something of him." In the original, the parent doing the pressuring was Arthur’s father Stanford (played by Thomas Barbour); in the remake it was Arthur’s mother Vivienne (played by Geraldine James). In both cases, the woman that the pressuring parent wanted Arthur to marry was named Susan. In the original, Susan was played by Jill Eikenberry, in the remake by Jennifer Gardner. In both cases, Arthur simply does not love this woman. Instead, Arthur comes to prefer a different woman of a much different (lower/simpler) class. In the original, Arthur’s true love interest becomes Linda (played by Liza Minelli) in the remake she's named Naomi (played by Greta Garwig). In both cases, Arthur’s true parent or mentor figure was named Hobson. In the original, Hobson was Arthur’s butler (played by John Geilgud); in the remake, Hobson is Arthur’s nanny (played by Helen Mirren).

In both cases, despite having been pressured by family, Arthur finally makes his own way. The 2011 version probably has a _somewhat_ more edifying ending. In either case, it’s hard to find much of great moral value, except perhaps that everyone has a right (and a duty) to ultimately take responsibility for one’s own life.

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