Sometimes a remake happens way too soon (Death at a Funeral), is completely unnecessary (Psycho), or rarely betters the original (The Ring). Let’s not even get into Hollywood’s endless case of sequelitis. For some, when a film is merely 30 years old it seems a little redundant to be remade, but when you take into the account of Death at a Funeral being three years apart from the original, you know nothing is safe when it comes to Hollywood needing to wring more money out of the movie-going public. Even when the original doesn’t feature subtitles (the J-horror fad of the late ‘00s). Such is the case with this week’s Russell Brand offering, Arthur.
Director Jason Winer may be able to make a winning episode of Modern Family, but lets face it, that show does well regardless of who’s behind the camera. (On a side note, it also makes far more sense on why there’s a shot with a poster for said TV show behind the cast at one point.) Screenwriter Peter Baynham also has had his hand in comedy gold as the man behind screenplay and story credits ranging from Brüno and Borat to I’m Alan Partridge and Big Train. The man has worked with funny before so maybe all the blame here really can be placed on star Russell Brand?
The story remains the same; Arthur Bach (Brand) lives the life of luxury in possibly New York City’s largest suite where he considers Central Park a “nice backyard.” Here’s a man so rich he owns a fleet of movie cars including, but not limited to, the Batmobile (why does he own the Batmobile? Probably because this is a Warner Bros. film) and the Back to the Future DeLorean (which nearly steals the whole show). Arthur is looked over by his nanny Hobson (Helen Mirren) because his mother Vivienne (Geraldine James) is too busy running Bach Worldwide to care for him after the passing of his father. Vivienne wants Arthur to marry her top executive, Susan (Jennifer Garner), because the company simply needs to be left in the hands of someone baring the last name of Bach.
Of course this means Arthur becomes instantly smitten with Naomi (Greta Gerwig) who gives illegally guided tours of Manhattan. Now Arthur must choose between true love with Naomi or face the power struggle of settling for someone of his mothers choosing of whom he has no interest in, Susan. If you’ve never seen the original (and let’s face it, anyone interested in a film starring Russell Brand probably has not) or are ignorant to how these supposed rom-coms work, you will never see the ending coming. Just like the guy sitting a row behind me who apparently has never seen any kind of film before.
The screenplay features hardly any real jokes and with how much Brand falls flat in his “comedic” performance it only makes you think that every line of dialogue out of his mouth was single-handedly written by Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Either that or Brand knew he was in the midst of so many better comedy performers that he had to step up his game. Having sat through some of one of his stand-up shows via NetFlix, I’m guessing it’s the former. Helen Mirren seems to be having the only bit of fun whether she’s warning Evander Holyfield she’ll bite off his other ear or even when she’s telling Arthur to wash his winky. But scenes involving Nick Nolte as Burt Johnson, Susan’s father, are too mean spirited and feel completely out of place and Vivienne making a remark about our “coffee-colored President” is simply abhorrent. Let alone the fact that you never once feel like Arthur even deserves to be with Naomi in spite of screenwriting clichés.
When the only characters with any chemistry are Arthur and Hobson you’ve got a huge problem when you’re aiming for rom-com status. At one point Naomi is trying to explain to Arthur that for once she thought she’d earned something and how good it felt and says, “You don’t know what that feels like, but you should try it sometime.” The same could be said for both Winer and Baynham and even Brand himself. I’m sure if it weren’t for his eccentric real life behavior and marriage to pop star Katy Perry he’d quickly fade from the lime light even faster than he quickly deserves to with each new film.
On a final note, according to IMDB, there are currently 2,744 movies tagged with the term “remake.” The earliest of which dates all the way back to the year 1900 (A Wringing Good Joke). How many of them truly qualify under this moniker however, is another story. So while we all may moan and groan every time another remake is announced, I suppose now it’s time to at least acknowledge that it always has and always will be a Hollywood epidemic. However, when this year alone sports a whopping 55 (because lets face it, not all of them are bound to happen nor are literal remakes), all we can do is brace ourselves and cross our fingers that the next one will work. In the meantime, skip the Arthur remake and revisit the original, making its Blu-ray debut this week.
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