From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
“Arthur” Blu-ray + DVD combo pack
Like Dudley Moore in the original, Russell Brand vividly embodies a fabulously wealthy, incredibly drunk playboy with no real direction in “Arthur,” a modernized remake of Moore’s signature 1981 comedy.
And like its predecessor and title character, the frenetic revamp suffers from lack of steady, savvy direction.
At the 1982 Academy Awards, “Arthur” won best supporting actor for John Gielgud and original song for “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do),” while Moore lost the actor award to Henry Fonda for “On Golden Pond.” Writer-director Steve Gordon, who died later that year of a heart attack, also was Oscar nominated for best original screenplay, but “Arthur” was the first and only film he helmed. His previous directing credits were on “Good Time Harry,” a short-lived sitcom he created, and his lack of feature experience unfortunately shows on “Arthur,” which despite its indelible performances isn’t that memorable a movie.
While the remake has undergone some necessary changes — it’s no longer socially acceptable for movies to revolve around lovable drunks, unless they eventually send their twinkly-eyed dipsomaniacs to rehab — unfortunately, flawed direction again undermines appealing performances. Helmer Jason Winer, a director and executive producer on the hit sitcom “Modern Family,” seems to be under the mistaken impression he’s still working in television here.
The core story remains much the same, with a few sharp gender twists: Perpetually soused and mind-bogglingly wealthy Arthur Bach (Brand) fritters away his days wrecking his Batmobile, wooing women of ill repute into his magnetic bed and exasperating his nanny Hobson (Helen Mirren cleverly cast in the Gielgud role). His emotionally distant CEO mother Vivienne (Geraldine James) worries that Arthur’s antics will affect the stock price at Bach Enterprises, so she issues an ultimatum: Her son will marry ruthless ladder-climber Susan (Jennifer Garner) or lose his fortune.
Arthur dislikes Susan but he can’t fathom being poor, so he agrees. But his resolve is tested when he falls for charming Naomi (Greta Gerwig), an unlicensed tour guide and aspiring children’s author.
Thanks to the game cast, Winer’s “Arthur” boasts more than a few laughs. But it feels like a sitcom stretched into a feature, with the frantic first half careening from one comedic set piece to the next before jarringly shifting into the more somber second half, which prolongs the too-neat tying of every plot thread.
Along with Blu-ray, DVD and digital copies of the film, the combo pack includes a gag reel, alternate scenes and a behind-the-scenes featurette.