When they announced the totally unnecessary remake of the classic 1981 comedy Arthur with Russell Brand taking over Dudley Moore's role, Helen Mirren as a gender-swapped Hobson (that won Sir John Gielgud an Oscar), and Greta Gerwig (me neither) blonding up the Liza Minnelli role, I had the same question as everyone else which is the same question that is asked when a beloved family member dies, a natural disaster occurs, or Michael Anthony is booted for Eddie's kid Wolfgang: WHY, GOD? WHY?!?
The need to remake everything regardless of whether it's needed re-doing or not has been a close second to sequels as a sign of Hollywood's fearful timidness and general disinterest in originality. You can imagine the pitch meeting for this thing: "Hey, let's remake Arthur with that annoying skinny English twit from Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him To The Greek. We'll get that GILF Helen Mirren to be the butler and it will be automatic win and profit! If only it were so simple.
If you've seen the original, you've pretty much seen this one. Arthur's a drunk man-child whose mother orders him to marry the daughter (Jennifer Garner) of a rough and tough, but very wealthy, contractor (Nick Nolte speaking in a worse voice than Batman) in order to provide stability and trust in the family business. He's dated her before, but dumped her because he didn't fancy her, something no other man had done to her before. When he tells Mother that he's not going to do it, she tells him he'll be cut off from his billion dollar trust fund if he doesn't close the deal. He meets a kooky, free-spirited, self-appointed tour guide (Gerwig) at Grand Central Station and is smitten by her. Will true love will out over money or will a tragic murder-suicide cap off this flick?
I'm not much of a fan of Brand's and it has nothing to do with his exclusive access to Katy Perry's glorious joy globes. He's struck me as an annoying one-trick pony and he doesn't disabuse me of that idea still, but he's not as terrible as I'd feared. As Arthur makes his inevitable arc into semi-maturity, Brand does OK. Mirren is as tart as could've been expected, but woefully underused. It feels as if they cast her and figured their work was done and didn't bother to write much for her. What a wasted opportunity.
This Gerwig person is one of those critic's darling babes that all the critics fawn over because she was in a movie you've probably never heard (think: Greta Scacchi), in this case Greenberg, the Ben Stiller blockbuster that grossed $4,234,170 domestically. She's sorta cute in an indie movie way, but feels underwritten. The weird standout is Garner who plays Susan, the arranged bride, as a craven shark with barely any veneer of romance; it's all about Arthur's Benjamins, baybee!
Are there laughs? Sure, but not as many as there should've been and in a far lower ratio than a typical well-done sitcom. (Really, why is it that TV shows can deliver more laughs in an average 22-minute episode for free than a 100-minute charges $10 for?) My girlfriend likes Brand (figures) and found the line he delivers during an AA meeting to be the funniest thing she's heard all year. There are some moments of sweet whimsy, like their first date. However, for most of the time during Arthur 2011: The Unnecessary Remake, I was wondering when a proper DVD release of the original would happen - it's never been released in widescreen format. This movie isn't evil, just irrelevant.
Score: 5/10. Catch it on cable.