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MOVIE REVIEW: Arthur

Another remake that isn't as good as the original

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Roger Ebert once said, they shouldn’t remake good movies, but instead the bad movies. They can fix what was bad about them and make them good this time around. The remake of Arthur falls into that category.

If you’re going to remake it, you can’t have a better Arthur Bach than Russell Brand, who has a brand of humor that fits perfectly into this character (think of his Aldous Snow rock star from Get Him to the Greek).

Classically trained British actor John Geilgud won an Oscar for his role as the butler Hobson in the original. Casting Oscar winning Helen Mirren as a nanny, and funny character actor Luis Guzman as the limo driver, were nice replacements. The problem is they didn’t have half the funny lines Geilgud had combined.

Greta Gerwig, who was an indie darling now doing big studio films, is an improvement on Liza Minelli. Instead of someone that’s just a thief in the original, she’s somebody that gives illegal tours of New York and seems to care more about people.

Nick Nolte is wasted (no pun intended) as the up from his boot straps domineering dad of Jennifer Garner, who is a ridiculous character that wants marry Brand for reasons that never really make sense. She claims she’ll be “that much richer,” and that people will respect her more. Not sure how they’ll respect her more if her husband is getting drunk and driving a batmobile around the city.

It also makes little sense why Brand -- who has a mother insisting they get married or he gets no money – would keep trying to convince Garner not to marry him. Wouldn’t the deal be off the table if he does convince?

Brand brings a nice energy to the role and he has a few jokes that work, but not nearly enough.

It’s weird, because Hollywood has loved making movies where billionaires can play with fancy toys and act like kids. They think this makes for entertaining cinema.

Richard Pryor, arguably one of the funniest people to ever walk the earth, wasn’t all that funny in The Toy.

More recently in The Green Hornet, Seth Rogen had mixed results with his expensive cars and fancy toys. And a lot of what was done in that is done in Arthur – the fancy cars in the garage, wanting to dress up like a super hero, having the nanny come in while you’re in bed with the latest bimbo.

I wonder how the makers of this film decided they’d have Arthur attend AA meetings. I guess the idea that people would laugh at a playful drunk -- that gets drunk every minute of every day -- might not play well. Okay, that’s fine. I just wonder why they didn’t make the AA meeting funny.

In the serious, but dark comedy Rachel Getting Married from a few years ago – they had AA scenes that were humorous. In the super dark Rabbit Hole from last year, they had funny scenes at a grieving support group. These can be the perfect settings for comedy – as you have a group of strangers, some can be weird or too serious, and there’s humor just in the fact that some are uncomfortable in the situation.

We were able to root for Dudley Moore in the original, where we never really root for Brand. I don’t know if it’s because he takes money out of an ATM and throws it at people shouting “There’s no recession,” that we just don’t feel bad for a billionaires plight.

There are some great songs in this from Daniel Merriweather and Ben Gibbard (Postal Service, Death Cab), and some fun cameos. And a few of the things he does with his money are fun. That includes an elaborate first date, purchasing Abraham Lincoln’s top hat, boxing lessons from Evander Holyfield, among other things.

At one point, we find out he paid $2 million for Elton John to sing into the PA system of a store. That’s a cameo they should’ve gotten. And hey – John played Rush Limbaugh’s wedding for a cool million – I’m guessing he would’ve done the cameo for 25K.

The original holds up nicely, and is an A. I’m giving this version of Arthur a D+.