"Arthur, Wasted Again"
"The Hair of the Dog That Bit Ya (At Least, There's No Christopher Cross To Bear!)"
The original Arthur was a comic gem, coming out of nowhere and capturing lightning in a bottle...and an enthusiastic audience. Its writer-director, Steve Gordon, had come out of TV situation comedy, and with some inspired casting, his already funny screenplay was a marvelous bawdy little comedy with more than a touch of sweetness. 18 months after its premiere, Gordon died of a heart attack at the too-young age of 44.
And while he may not exactly be spinning in his grave over it (or under it), this 2011 edition of Arthur, falling along the same story-line of a spoiled little man-child, permanently besotted and constantly on the run from any ounce of maturity, does nothing to enhance the original.
The best that we can do is say that, at least, it doesn't detract from the earlier, better, funnier one. Do yourself a favor. Check out the Dudley Moore version of Arthur.
The first started off with a funny sequence that jumped out of the film-gate with enough belly-laughs in the first five minutes that this one should shrivel in shame like a cirrhosed liver. 2011 Arthur starts with Russell Brand's incarnation (really, he was the best choice to do this one, recalling Moore with a hyper-pituitary) dressing up like Batman™ (another Warner Brothers™ property) and eluding the police throughout the streets of New York. We also get the occasional glance of a Looney Tunes™ cartoon, just to keep things in the Warner family, reminding us that, rather than being an inspired original product, this film is just another studio property (while also twisting the knife by demonstrating what good comedy can be and how much this movie blows the punch-line).
When the original came out, there was some huffing and puffing among the PC crowd about making comedy out of drunkenness, tut-tutting and tsk-tsking like a Temperance Society. This one has a nice "safe" solution that should be please everyone (and we all know that that's the stuff from which comedy gold is mined*), with a cringe-inducing line of sentimentality that, in other circumstances, I might applaud, but here only made me want to throw up. Or reach for the insulin.**
Casting is a little hit-or-miss. Brand is fine, although his ad-libbing isn't as good as he, the director, and the studio think it is. John Gielgud's Academy Award-winning role of Hobson is transgendered for Helen Mirren, and whether in tribute to her old acting friend or just because she has the best lines, she runs away with the movie (petty theft)...as Gielgud almost did. Jennifer Garner is a good choice for Susan, the-bride-not-wanted-to-be in order to form a more perfect business union, and, surprisingly, Greta Gerwig, who was so good in Greenberg and No Strings Attached, seems a bit dazed and confused as Linda, the girl for whom Arthur falls. Maybe it was trying to keep on top of Brand, but she seems to keep looking to him for clues on what to do, belying the head-strong manner that a Linda should be exhibiting (and which Liza Minnelli pulled off with a trooper's timing). And Nick Nolte, I felt sorry for. Sadly, the role of Linda's father, which garnered some of the biggest laughs in the first, is hardly dealt with here.
The potential was there to do something pretty good and Arthur has its moments. But, like the original's sequel (Arthur 2: On the Rocks), this one is a wasted effort and should probably never have been made.
1998 Arthur was a good bender. The 2011 edition is like a bad hangover. Any thoughts about making further ones should be 86'd. We've had enough.
Arthur (2011) is a Cable-Watcher.
* That's sarcasm, by the way.
** For the record, the writer is Peter Baynham, who wrote Borat (someone wrote Borat...really? On what? Index cards?), and the director is Jason Winer, the executive producer of "Modern Family" (I know a lot of people who just love "Modern Family." Should I disown them?). I discovered all this by sitting through the entire End Credits, hoping that there might be some hilarious out-takes (there weren't, as I should have expected...the best stuff, sadly, is up on the screen), and was, instead, treated to a new version of "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)." Afterward, I wanted to crawl out of the theater and into the comfort of a warm sewer.
Friday, April 22, 2011
"Arthur, Wasted Again"