Starring: Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Greta Gerwig, Jennifer Garner, Nick Nolte, Luis Guzman, Geraldine James
Director: Jason Winer
Writer(s): Peter Baynham
Cinematography: Uta Bresewitz
Original Score: Theodore Shapiro
Running Time: 110 mins.
Russell Crowe continues his assault on Hollywood, stateside upon its release Arthur hit the top half of the chart suggesting his star power isn’t in question, tellingly it quickly dropped suggesting the word of mouth on this particular film wasn’t all that strong, posing the question as to why… Well it isn’t for lack of ambition on Brand’s part, taking on an iconic and previously Oscar-winning part (by Dudley Moore) Brand seems the perfect fit to play a billionaire man-child who spends most of his life drunk frivolously spending his inherited cash on things such as antique suits and iconic movie cars and so it turns out he more than holds his own proving he does have some range and can be rather sweet with the bawdy humour that was evident in Get Him To The Greek.
The film starts with a skit involving the Batmobile from Batman Forever, something which seemingly serves simply to suggest how much money Arthur really does have, sadly it doesn’t raise the requisite laughs only one or two smirks, not a good start for a supposed comedy. Thankfully each progressive scene in the first 20 minutes builds to something that is sufficiently humourous if not all-out hilarity, what helps even the balance is that the heart of the film makes it a breezy and likeable experience, this is thanks to Brand and his chemistry with Mirren and Guzman (despite the latter being criminally underused), both prove perfect foils for a man who is often walking the edge between funny and annoying and if nothing else the film always avoids becoming annoying.
This may not seem like a glowing review (it isn’t) and that is simply because this type of film was never going to break any new ground, rather it treads old well-worn ground sufficiently and well enough to entertain just enough. At times the jokes hint at a better film but that could have only occurred with a more experienced director and in particular a writer who had the conviction to make Arthur more than a sum of its parts, alternately the casting department have done a great job and in all honestly I can’t imagine anyone better suited to the role than Brand, Mirren having worked with him before also seems the perfect fit and helps some potentially soppy scenes from becoming as such with her barbed wit.
Because Arthur’s world revolves around money the resultant message is a no-brainer and having his love interest be a “poor” illegal tour guide being far from surprising, he even uses his wealth to help her publish a book, it’s in plot points that are this shockingly hackneyed that you will cringe ever so slightly, but some of the billionaires escapades are amusingly realised though it seems odd that in these times of yearning to get a 12 certificate certain things are inevitably muted…the fact that Arthur is an alcoholic never births anything other than drunken hijinks, though I never expected a hit and run or attempted suicide something a little more edgy would have been nice.
It seems strange to have said that about Brand, a man who up until now has seemed like he was incapable of “toning it down” has proven twice in the last month he may have longevity in his acting career and the ability to turn his considerable charm and comic timing to kids films (Hop) and, now, family comedy, now all he needs to do is find material as good as he is and we may just have something special but for now I guess we will have to make do with passably entertaining films that don’t squander the mans talent but fail to fully capitalise on it.
Arthur shows Russell Brand can tone down his usual routine and become a relatable character who is warm and funny at once (quite a feat given that his character is a billionaire), maybe next time the material will match the man himself but until then Mirren and Brand’s quipping will suffice.