"Arthur" (2011) Review

Title: Arthur
Director: Jason Winer
Staring: Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Jennifer Garner
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Genre(s): Comedy
Rated: PG-13 (For alcohol use throughout, sexual content, language and some drug references)

I’ve often been asked by people what I consider to be a pointless remake and what I consider to be a well done remake. Well, there are two things that must always be considered when looking at a remake: Does it hold up well on it’s own and try something new, or does it feel like the original version only a lot worse? I consider the Coen brothers remake of “True Grit” to be a movie worth remaking because they did something new and interesting with it. It can sit next to the original and stand on it’s own without too much comparison. I would consider Gus Van Sant’s remake of “Psycho” to be pointless because it doesn’t stand well on it’s own and adds little reason to see it over the original (vastly superior) Alfred Hitchcock film.
When I heard that Warner Brothers was remaking “Arthur” I was a little surprised. The original movie is still very funny to this day and many people I show it to still enjoy it despite it’s age. But age it has, so we must assume that a remake is (at least in theory) a good idea. This version has Russell Brand taking over the title role that was played so memorably by Dudley Moore in the eighties. Moore was so wonderful in the original because he was a charming drunk. Sure he was irresponsible, but he rarely caused trouble and just wanted to have fun all the time. The biggest problem he had was that he took no responsibility for anything in life. Brand’s Arthur, in comparison, is rather obnoxious and troublesome.
He sleeps with numerous women. He drinks too much. He drives the original Batmobile from Tim Burton’s “Batman” and crashes it into a New York lamp light. It’s no surprise then that his mother has a proposition for him: Marry the hard working Susan (Jennifer Garner) to help run the company and remain rich forever, or walk away and live the life of poverty. He accepts because he doesn’t want to be poor, but is bothered because he wants to marry for love. He’s also taken a liking to Naomi (Greta Gerwig), who makes money giving illegal tours of Grand Central Station for tourists. The two have genuine chemistry and it’s to the films credit that this is where Arthur starts shaping up and being a bit more likable.
Otherwise he reminds me of the stupid bunny from “Hop” last week...which is probably fitting since Brand also voiced him as well. What I was most interested in seeing was Arthur’s surrogate father. Played memorably in the first film by John Gielgud, this movie goes in the total opposite direction and where Hobson is not a male butler but a female nanny this time around. She is played wonderfully by Helen Mirren, who is a lot rougher around the edges than Gielgud was. But then, considering Arthur a little bit more of a jerk in this version, it works wonderfully. She is the most likable and entertaining person in the movie, and her character provides the emotional core of the entire film.
Which brings us to the final question: Is this a movie that was worth remaking or not? Eh, depends on how you look at it. The new version does have it’s own unique charms and modernness to it, but the original was much more likable and charming. This new remake is uneven and rough around the edges. Maybe a bit too much. The first half is almost unbearable to watch, but the second half is very good. Ultimately I think I could have lived with a remake of “Arthur” though, and I can probably safely say that most other people will be able to say the same thing by the time the credits role.

Parents, there is some mild language, sexual situations, and lots of references to booze and drugs. Recommended for ages 14and up.