Arthur: bad Russell Brand, great Greta Gerwig

Apr 21, 2011
Sophie Taylor

Film of the week: Greta Gerwig is the one bright spot in this insipid remake

Russell Brand's new movie, Arthur, appears to be dead on arrival, with critic after critic laying into the poorly conceived remake of the much-loved 1981 Dudley Moore film.

The film, which centres around drunken billionaire Arthur choosing between money and love, was always going to hinge on whether or not Brand could carry off the character that Moore made his own. Unfortunately for him, he has not.

Described variously as a "half-cocked egomaniac", "whiny" and a "bore", it looks like Brand's US career is over before it even began in Modern Family creator Jason Winer's first feature film.

Perhaps it was always going to be an error to remake a film that was so much of its time. Alcoholism, by Brand's own admission, is no longer a laughing matter, and consequently the film replaces unabashed drunken hilarity with saccharine sweet AA-style morals.

On top of that, John Gielgud's Oscar-winning performance as Arthur's dry and reserved butler has morphed into Helen Mirren's severe yet sweet Mary Poppins-esque nanny. Most are agreed that the part will not be winning 'the Queen' any more Academy Awards.

The only thumbs up are for Greta Gerwig, whose refreshing take on Liza Minelli's role of Arthur's impoverished true love is earning her plaudits across the board. "I'd put good money on her being one of the next big things in American indies," wrote Rupert Christiansen in the Daily Telegraph.

It may well all come down to whether or not you have even seen the original. For those that haven't, Brand's usual contrived eccentricity may well hit the spot. For those that have, this could be a steppy wepp too far.


Xan Brooks, Guardian: "It's a superficial sketch of a superficial man... The 21st-century Arthur is diluted enough to begin with, and these watered-down ingredients make for a thin, insipid and oddly flavourless brew. Drink it responsibly. Better yet, don't drink it at all." (2/5 stars)

Antonia Quirke, Financial Times: The dire script is from Peter Baynham – of Alan Partridge, Brass Eye and Jam. I can’t believe he wrote it. This remake was just a bad idea all round. The original Arthur was almost accidentally charming. Simply impossible to recreate. (1/5 stars)

Betsy Sharkey, LA Times: "Where to begin with what went wrong when just about everything did? Meanwhile, Mirren, that grande dame of cinema, just seems tired. And who could blame her? She's in the midst of this disaster, literally and figuratively dying right in front of us."

David Edelstein, New York Magazine: "A spectacularly grating remake (this time, Peter Baynham miswrote, Jason Winer misdirected). Russell Brand gives a career-killing performance."

Trevor Johnston, Time Out: "Since Brand doesn't make us care whether Arthur finds love (and his big emotional moments expose the comedian's acting limitations), the movie's essentially a goner. The passage of time has brought us a blander, more responsible Arthur with far fewer laughs."

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