Review: Arthur (2011) Blu-ray

Arthur Blu-ray boxSTUDIO: Warner | DIRECTOR: Jason Winer | CAST: Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Greta Gerwig, Jennifer Garner, Nick Nolte, Luis Guzman
RELEASE DATE:
7/15/11 | PRICE: Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack $35.99, DVD $28.98
BONUSES:
additional scenes; Blu-ray adds gag reel, “Arthur Unsupervised,” digital copy
SPECS:
PG-13 | 110 min. | Comedy | 1.77:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1/Dolby Digital 5.1 | English, French, Portuguese and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall

Arthur

Helen Mirren is actually the one who's got Russell Brand's number in Arthur.

Remaking the much loved 1981 romantic comedy Arthur starring Dudley Moore is a tall order. I put it in the same category as spearheading a redo of The Jerk without Steve Martin or Tootsie minus Dustin Hoffman or, hell, even Private Benjamin sans Goldie Hawn. Those three films had memorable stories and clever scripts, of course, but it’s still their stars that strengthen the fond and ongoing memories we have of the movies.

So Russell Brand’s (Get Him to the Greek) got it tough from the get-go as 2011’s boozing, fun-loving Arthur, a New York playboy-manchild who takes a daily, drunken bite out of life under the watchful eye of his lifelong nanny (Helen Mirren, Red) and who stands to inherit zillions if he marries an icy family business associate (Jennifer Garner, The Invention of Lying).

Brand doesn’t get a lot of help from director Jason Winer’s tempo or Peter Baynham’s script, which more or less hew to the original film’s story while making it bigger, faster, noisier and, thus, harder. Gone is the warmth the original’s ambling pace and Moore’s loveable drunk, and in its place is a rapid-fire template that plays upon Brand’s considerably broader personality.

Brand’s talent is undeniable, but he doesn’t serve up the charm that’s necessary for audiences to feel for him. His high-octane shtick may have screened well in dailies, but on-screen as a feature film, it comes off as petulant and almost infantile. Let’s not even get into the movie’s take on drunkenness, which was more fun 30 years ago and in today’s Hollywood can only lead to AA for resolution.

Co-star Greta Gerwig (Greenberg) doesn’t bring much energy or allure to her role as the normal gal of Arthur’s dreams (though she’s not really helped out by the script). I’m not a big Liza Minnelli fan from the original, but at least she seemed to be having fun opposite her leading man.

Jennifer Garner tries hard, but her performance isn’t as cute or clever as it is cartoonish. Dame Helen brings an obvious touch of class to the movie in the role that was originated by John Gielgud, and she delivers when it comes to providing the film an emotional center in its final third. Still, her clipped diction comes off as perfunctory when the order of the day is deadpan and punctuated. Maybe the Oscar-winner was losing her patience…

The Blu-ray image is bright and colorful (man, are those skies blue!), and New York looks vibrant and postcard beautiful, as it should for an Arthur remake (or any NYC-based romantic comedy). The audio quality is fine but unremarkable, as are the disc’s few supplemental features, which focus on Brand’s general on- and off-camera zaniness, which I saw more than enough of in the film.

 

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.