Your enjoyment of “Arthur,” the remake of the 30 year old Dudley Moore comedy, is in direct ratio to your enjoyment of Russell Brand. His brand of Brit-speak verbal diarrhea works in small doses, the trick here is to see whether audiences will sit through two hours of word-play rivaled only by Charlie Sheen on a crack fuelled internet rant. Brand is Arthur Bach the ne’re-do-well heir to an enormous fortune. He’s a womanizing playboy, a drunk man-child whose nanny (Helen Mirren) describes as “merely shaped like an adult.” When his “savant-ish gift for defying death with fun” embarrasses his mother she brings down the hammer. Either he straightens up and marries the beautiful but all-business Susan or be disinherited. Trouble is, he`s in love with Naomi (Greta Gerwig) a charismatic Grand Central Station tour guide.
“Arthur Redux” isn’t an improvement on the original, but it isn’t a waste of time either. Brand is front and center here, chewing the scenery as though he hasn’t eaten in years. For the first hour he delivers every line as if it was a punch line, which would be OK if they were all actually punch lines, but they’re not. Brand, like the character he’s playing here, isn’t nearly as charming as he thinks he is and even though he hits the mark 40% of the time, the delivery gets tired. Luckily the movie improves when it takes a turn for the touching. The Naomi love story works because of Greta Gerwig’s natural charisma and once Mirren’s character actually becomes a character and less a sounding board for Brand’s antics, she adds some depth to the story.
“Arthur” isn’t going to erase the original from people’s minds—it’s a tad too long and a titch too predictable—but its mix of comedy and romance is almost as intoxicating as whatever Arthur swigs out of his ever-present flask. And it’s worth it to see Helen Mirren in a Darth Vader mask.
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