Thirty years after Dudley Moore consolidated his Hollywood success by turning the role of feckless millionaire Arthur into a box-office smash, his fellow Londoner Russell Brand takes up the mantle for this modern version of the tale. Directed by Jason Winer, the updated comedy sees billionaire (that's inflation for you) Arthur Buck risking his entire inheritance by avoiding the arranged (for sound business reasons) marriage to wealthy but unlikeable Jennifer Garner in favour of a relationship with poor but lovable Greta Gerwig.
In that regard, not much has changed from the original scenario, but there is one major difference in that a Dame has now replaced a Knight. Sir John Gielgud scooped an Oscar for his memorable portrayal of Arthur's phlegmatic butler in the1981 film and that character has been replaced by Dame Helen Mirren as Arthur's equally phlegmatic nanny.
On the positive side, the antics of super-rich Arthur have an interesting resonance for today's cash-strapped society, and the chemistry between Brand and Mirren (who clearly enjoy each other's company on and off screen) is strong. Top marks for Greta Gerwig, too, as the lovable gal-next-door. A career in indie movies ('Greenberg', 'Baghead') established the New Yorker as an actor of note and she continues to enhance her reputation.
On the downside, though Russell Brand, on paper, would seem the perfect choice to play Arthur, his performance never quite convinces or dominates the screen in the way that it should. Brand is a modern comic genius and an undoubted force of nature: one day he will find the appropriate vehicle for his talents. 'Arthur' isn't that vehicle. Elsewhere, Jennifer Garner struggles with her one-note role as the bitchy fiancée, and Nick Nolte is under-used in his one-note role as her equally unpleasant father.
Yes, there are some laughs (the Batmobile, for one) but most of the comedy set-pieces are much too broad (the engagement dinner) and way too unbelievable (the auction scene) to hit home. Best that you can do is stick with 'Arthur' Mark 1.