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2011-04-28 11:30
What it's about

A remake of the 1981 film of the same name, Arthur is a young man living the high life off his family's money. After his latest bout of incredibly outlandish behaviour once again embarrasses his family and their company by being splashed all over the tabloids, his mother gives him an ultimatum: either marry the very respectable daughter of a self-made multimillionaire or lose any and all access to the family's immense fortune.

What we thought

Did Arthur really need to be remade?

If the bile-drenched, venomous reaction to the film by just about every critic the world over is any indication, the answer would seem to be a very definite and very resounding NO! Well, allow me to buck the trend. Not only do I not have a problem with this remake, I actually consider it to be an all-round improvement on the original.

I understand that this outrageous statement may well be cause for heresy charges to be brought against me by my fellow critics but I have my reasons. For a start, I re-watched the original film before writing this review and you know what, it doesn't really hold up nearly as well as some might think.

The late 70s/ early 80s was an incredible time for big-screen comedy. Woody Allen was at his peak, John Hughes was on the rise and classics like Airplane and the Monty Python films all but redefined what we could expect from the comedy genre. The original Arthur is a perfectly fine piece of work, to be sure, but it's no where near the perfectly formed gem that films like Annie Hall or Life of Brian so clearly are. You can watch those films now and they feel as if they haven’t aged a day. Arthur isn't quite so fortunate. Did it need to be remade? No. Probably not. Is it truly sacrilegious that they did remake it? As it turns out, not by a long shot.

Its comedy may be broader than the original and it may be less gritty and more “Hollywoodized” but the 2011 Arthur has many improvements over the original. It may be somewhat overextended but this new Arthur feels better fleshed out – as do Arthur's relationships with his co-stars. In part it's simply that Helen Mirren and Greta Gerwig are better in their roles than John Gielgud and Liza Minnelli were as his man-servant/ nanny and love interest respectively. Not that the originals were bad but these two actresses bring real warmth and likeability to their characters that Gielgud and Minnelli don't come close to matching. Jennifer Garner is also far better and far bitchier as Susan Johnson, the woman Arthur is being forced to marry, than the rather tame Jill Eikenberry was in the original.

The real wild-card though is Russell Brand in the title role and your enjoyment of the film will largely depend on whether you like him or not. Many people clearly see him as being horribly unfunny and unlikeable a screen presence. I don't agree. Dudley Moore was pretty great in the original but Brand does him one better on every level. Not only do I find Russell Brand very funny with his great mixture of verbal wit and physical comedy, I also thought he handled the more dramatic and more human parts of the film with far more skill than most people give him credit for. Oddly enough, though, despite his infamously self-destructive past, he's actually far less credible a drunk than Moore was.

A staggering thirty years on from the original film, I, for one, am pleased to announce that the new version of Arthur should work for a new generation. It's predictable and silly and irrelevant and overly smooth around the edges but, ya know what, it's a fun, warm-hearted and funny little comedy that I have little trouble recommending. You just have to like Russel Brand, is all.

A fun, warm-hearted and funny little comedy.
Read more on:    russell brand  |  movies

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