Arthur (2011) Review
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I think it’s safe to say that I’m not the only one who shudders at the word “remake.” After all, if the original was truly spectacular, there’s nowhere to go but down. So why risk it? Why take a classic romantic comedy—like 1981’s Arthur, for instance—and try to update it with a modern story and a quirky new cast, when there’s really nothing wrong with the original? And why go on to cast a star who’s best in small doses?

Despite my reservations, though, every once in a whilea remake manages to get it right—like director Jason Winer’s irresistibly charming Arthur.

Russell Brand stars as Arthur Bach, a wealthy playboy who spends his days drinking, cavorting, tossing around large amounts of money, and being driven around in various movie vehicles (like the Batmobile) by his loyal (though somewhat incompetent) chauffeur, Bitterman (Luis Guzmán). Tired of his childish behavior—and concerned for the future of her successful corporation—Arthur’s mother, Vivienne (Geraldine James), gives him an ultimatum: marry her ambitious associate, Susan (Jennifer Garner), or be cut off completely.

Arthur doesn’t love Susan, but he reluctantly goes through with the proposal, knowing that he couldn’t survive without his mom’s millions. But he starts to reconsider his alternatives when he meets Naomi (Greta Gerwig), a quirky young woman from Queens, who makes a meager living leading illegal tours of the city.

With most recent Hollywood remakes, the filmmakers are so determined to create something new and updated and “modern” that, in the process, they often end up taking away the things that made the original worth remaking in the first place. But that’s not the case with the Arthur update. Instead of morphing into some kind of over-the-top outrageous comedy, this new Arthur maintains a classic comedy feel, with snappy dialogue and crisp wit that easily eclipse the brainless, sophomoric humor of most modern comedies. Instead of fart jokes and gratuitous nudity, it focuses more on verbal sparring and subtly smart screenwriting. It may not be as wild as the typical Russell Brand comedy, but it’s surprisingly and refreshingly clever.

Brand, meanwhile, is perfect for the role of the self-indulgent playboy. He makes Arthur’s immature antics feel completely believable—yet, deep down, there’s a boyish charm that makes him more of a lovable scamp than a spoiled rich kid.

At the same time, while a few members of the film’s cast feel completely out of place (especially Gerwig, who’s awkward and painfully bland opposite Brand), most add their own heart and humor to the film. Guzmán is hilarious in his small supporting role, and Helen Mirren is as lovely as ever as Arthur’s long-suffering nanny and surrogate mother, Hobson.

It may not be a wild and crazy outrageous comedy, but Arthur is a satisfying remake—mixing the classic charm of the original with some updated touches of Brand’s quirky comedy to create a sweet and simple romcom remake that’s a lovable pick for date night.

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