Sunday, April 24, 2011

Arthur - 2011

"Arthur" - 2011
Dir. by Jason Winer - 1 hr. 50 min.

Even though they're both remakes, it's interesting that two big studio movies would get made so close to each other featuring a billionaire playboy as the leading character (I'm rounding up with Arthur - it's clearly stated that he'd be giving up on $950 million in the film) during such uncertain economic times.  I'm talking about this movie, "Arthur," and "The Green Hornet."  Perhaps it's due to a need for escapism, I don't really know.  It's worth pointing out, however.  The truth is, when I saw the production still from this film months ago showing Russell Brand as a drunken Batman and Luis Guzman as his Robin gone to hell, I was sold.  No question, no hesitation, I needed to see this film.

While TGH was largely about redirecting anger (albeit frequently with mixed results), "Arthur" is more about a search for intimacy.  There's a huge layer of glibness and whimsy on top of that (and it seems weird to use the word "whimsy" to describe a perpetual drunk, but I don't know how else to put it), but they are there precisely to gloss over the structural problems in Arthur's life.  It's clear that Arthur's actual family doesn't have his best interests at heart, and when he is faced with the ultimatum to submit to a business-deal marriage or give up his fortune, the coping mechanisms stop working.  On top of that, Arthur becomes smitten with another woman, which complicates the decision.

Minor quibbles:  Jennifer Garner's character, Susan, is never portrayed in a way that would give Arthur any temptation to marry her.  There's a big difference between showing someone as a real person with flaws, but Susan is a businesswoman first, and nothing else second.  I suppose this works to soften the harshness of Arthur's strained relationship with his mother, which is necessary if you don't want the audience to commit suicide in the parking lot post-film, but a less black-and-white version of Susan might have been more interesting.  Secondly, and I can nearly feel my balls shriveling away by typing this, but I preferred the original Christopher Cross version of the theme song to the cover version in this one.

On the other hand, the casting (and cast) was superb.  Without Russell Brand, there's no reason to do this movie.  After seeing more hyper-sexualized performances by him, it took a little while to buy in to a more naive performance.  But I couldn't imagine anyone else playing that role.  Helen Mirren, Luis Guzman, Jennifer Garner, and Greta Gerwig (as the wide-eyed Naomi, the girl that Arthur falls for) were all perfect choices.  The story wasn't spectacular, but it worked, and it was enough to keep the cast doing what they were all good at.

3 / 5 - Theatre

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