Back in 1981, when the original Arthur with Dudley Moore hit theaters, the idea of an alcoholic cad of an heir with no ambition must have seemed adorably cute (or maybe it was the diminutive Moore who invested the character with that charmingly destructive lovability). Thirty years ago, Arthur was a spoiled drunk who needed to grow up, but now, in this remake starring Russell Brand, there’s something darker, maybe even edgier in the mix. Brand brings his hard-rocking persona (albeit slightly reformed) along for the ride making this update feel like another spinoff of his Aldous Snow character (Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek), but oddly enough there’s another weird specter haunting the party — that of Nicolas Cage from Leaving Las Vegas.
It was difficult watching Brand’s arrestedly developed alcoholic turn and not want to see him spin completely out of control. How is it that this Richie Rich lush could always dance along the tightrope of sobriety without tumbling over and drowning in his tumbler? Is it the fear of losing his outrageous fortune, which allows his mother (Geraldine James) to manipulate him into marrying a schemer (Jennifer Garner) intent on seizing control of his money or the crazy movie love he feels for the innocent Naomi (the utterly engaging Greta Gerwig) or the ever-watchful eye of his nanny Hobson (Helen Mirren) that keeps him on the straight and narrow?
Whatever it is, Brand makes us believe in this sketchy fairy tale. Yet I wanted more of the grim reality, the indie-gutter version that wallowed in loss and punch-drunk love. Grade: B-