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IN SHORT: An OK dateflick. pure and simple and disposable. [Rated PG-13 by the MPAA for alcohol use throughout, sexual content, language and some drug references. 110 minutes]
For those expecting historical ramblings: When Arthur was first made, with the late Dudley Moore in the title role, alcoholism was funny. Now it isn't, which means that the remake of Arthur, now starring Russell Brand as Arthur Bach, has to find something else to make the title character -- a rich-beyond-your-wildest-dreams person with significant social problems (ie. he's a drunk) -- sympathetic and endearing . . .
. . . or so we thought before watching the remake, with a perfectly serviceable piece of work by Mr. Brand, whose character is still an alcoholic, though that is played down with more emphasis placed on the character as a millionaire sexaholic. Brand works well in the shadow of a terrific performance by Helen Mirren as Arthur's "nanny (meaning surrogate mother) Hobson.
And how could this writing fanboy not be happy as a camper as the opening scene of Arthur has the drunkard dressed up as Batman, with his faithful friend and employee Bitterman (Luiz Guzman) as Robin, tearing through the streets of New York in one of the original Batmobiles. Besides sex and booze, this Arthur has a thing for cars used in major motion pictures, which will play a small role later in the film.
Arthur's romp through Gotham means he misses some elaborate party thrown by his mother, Vivienne H. Bach (Geraldine James) for one of the Bach charitable corporations. We think. What's more important is a deal struck between mom and the lovely Susan Johnson (Jennifer Gardner) to force Arthur to straighten up via the vehicle of Holy Matrimony. For Susan, the potenjtial marriage is just the icing on a multi-billion dollar corporate merger. Arthur, summoned to mom's offices to take his punishment (so to speak) at first refuses the deal. Doing so means he will be cut off from any part of a $950 fortune he would eventually inherit and so, determined to be his own man, Arthur sets off to find gainful employment.
What follows is perhaps the funniest bit in the movie, at least for yours Cranky, as Arthur tries to find his place in the world via an employment agency. If you've been that route, as we have, you'll be grinning ear to ear when it's done.
Two more important pieces to this story soon follow: Arthur, deflated by his failure in the real world has to pass muster with Susan's father Burt Johnson (Nick Nolte). Burt, the zillionaire owner of a construction conglomerate, seals the deal with a table saw whose use would not be approved by the guys at This Old House. More important, though, is a random meeting between Arthur and Naomi Quinn (Greta Gerwig) who gives unlicensed tours of New York's Grand Central Station and dreams of a real job creating books for children. We tend to remember that Arthur was surprisingly, relatively sober when he met and was lovestruck by Ms. Quinn.
And so is laid the groundwork for the classic story: rich bitch versus the real person who has no idea who Arthur Bach is. The two will do battle, so to speak, and no one in the story will come out the winner. That means that when the comedy turns sentimental, even though we knew what was coming, we were touched.
All the women in our audience were categorzing Mr. Brand as "adorable" on the way out and that's a good enough combo (comedy and adorable) to get the dating crowd into the theaters.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Arthur, he would have paid . . .
take a date.
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