Review: 'Arthur'

(One-and-a-half stars)

The word "excessive" has rarely seemed so appropriate. It is excessive to "re-imagine" a Dudley Moore-starring comedy from the early '80s that, frankly, wasn't all that spectacular in the first place. To boot, the title character drinks, spends and parties excessively.

And if you're daring enough to go see this forgettable vehicle for quirky British actor Russell Brand ("Get Him to the Greek"), you'll likely leave thinking the ticket price was excessive, too. Fortunately, Oscar winner Helen Mirren is part of the cast, and her on-screen appearances never feel excessive.

To be fair to viewers -- and Dudley -- let's judge the 2011 version of "Arthur" on its own merits. Brand assumes the role of booze-guzzling, childlike playboy Arthur Bach, heir to a seemingly endless fortune. Even Arthur's lifelong nanny, Hobson (Mirren), can't coax maturity out of the reckless lush.

Arthur's frigid mother (Geraldine James) threatens to cut him off completely unless he agrees to marry Susan Johnson (Jennifer Garner), the power-hungry daughter of a wealthy developer (Nick Nolte). Arthur reluctantly goes along with his mother's wishes but second-guesses himself when he meets and falls for aspiring writer Naomi (Greta Gerwig).

What's an alcoholic spendthrift to do? And, more importantly, do you care?

It's difficult to empathize much for a character who so wantonly wastes money and chugs alcohol, especially at a time when many Americans are taking pay cuts and losing their shirts at the gas pump. Brand is a likable actor and he performs admirably, but he is better suited as a supporting player.

Mirren is, per usual, a scene-stealing gem and her involvement is what really makes the picture bearable. Gerwig and Garner are well cast in their opposing roles (Gerwig especially brings an uplifting energy to the film) while Nolte seems to deliver every line of dialogue with a certain strain, almost as though he is (pardon the crudeness) constantly constipated.

The problem with "Arthur" is far more about concept than execution. There is an obvious consideration and fair amount of heart put into the production -- director Jason Winer (TV's "Modern Family") will likely make a fine film one day. And there are some solid laughs sprinkled throughout as well, usually courtesy of Brand's throw-caution-to-the-wind delivery. Creative opening and closing credits give the film a colorful spark, but it isn't enough to rescue it from its own missteps.

Money may be infinite for Arthur Bach, but for most of us it is a precious commodity. Don't waste yours on this dud.

Rated PG-13 for some drug references, sexual content, alcohol use throughout and language. 1 hour, 45 minutes.

— Tyler Hanley

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