Saturday, 30 April 2011

Arthur: A Blander Brand?


Russell Brand is a Marmite man. You love him or you hate him. Personally, I quite like him. I appreciate a man who packs a loaded vocabulary and isn't afraid to use it, and who looks like a rocknroll scarecrow but gets girls who look like Katy Perry. That is to be respected.

I enjoyed his (semi-autobiographical) turns as Aldous Snow in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "Get Him to the Greek", but here he is attempting to carry a film all on his own lanky shoulders. Is he up to the task?

On this evidence, I would say yes. Brand is an agreeable presence, brandishing his lounging gait and whimsical eloquence like a pissed-up Willy Wonka, but that's not to say the film is entirely successful.


"Arthur" is a remake of a Dudley Moore film which I have never seen, so I won't be crying "sacrilege!" at any point in this review. It tells the story of a billionaire alcoholic playboy who must choose between embarking on an arranged marriage to save his inheritance or giving up his riches to be with the pretty-but-penniless tour-guide he has a crush on.

The main problem with the film is that it's not that funny. It's not hellishly unfunny, it's just mildly amusing. It's okay. Brand is likable, unless you're one of the many people who don't like him, in which case the movie will inspire naught but rage in you as he trundles around getting into wacky scrapes like the lovable drunken scamp he is.

Helen Mirren is typically good value as Arthur's nanny, Jennifer Garner gives good psycho hosebeast as his forcefully affianced, and Greta Gerwig is positively luminous as the cutesy-kooky tour-guide. Nick Nolte and Luis Guzman are in there too, but are both given little of note to do.


Most of the chuckles (and they are just chuckles) come from Brand's mouth, with most of the limp comic set-pieces falling flat before they even get going, and the film develops a Sandler-esque maudlin streak towards the end of the second act, meaning the meagre laughs dry up even further.

In the end, you are left with a light comedy that never really takes off. Could this be because of the 12A/PG13 certificate? In the attempt to appeal to a wider, younger audience, does the film hamstring the normally X-rated Brand funnybone? It is unclear, as Brand himself seems as at ease here as elsewhere, yet the film rests in an uncomfortable no-man's land, somewhere between good and bad, called "okay". And maybe that's the most offensive thing of all.

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