When news hit that Arthur was being remade, many fans were irritated to say the least, myself included. Not only a classic, it’s a film of an age, and one long gone. No one is drunk like Dudley Moore, no one could match his wild charm, and it’s hard to imagine a positive reaction to the outlandish excesses of the insanely wealthy right now.
Russell Brand‘s Arthur is a very different fellow though, and apart from the wealth issue, the film manages to sidestep most of the problems it faces.
Brand has his own charm, and his own treatment of the scamp billionaire works well. He doesn’t need to deliver in quite the same way, overcoming the fact that we’re watching a drunk, because while he might act like he’s got a slight hangover at times, and is seeing drinking almost non-stop, he never acts drunk.
Building in a bit more character than merely a moderately insane, distant mother – the kind that would arrange your marriage with the threat of disinheritance looming, while being scarcely able to pick you out of a line-up – Arthur has a variety of other issues, many stemming from the loss of his father. This puts us in the position of having a PC-acceptable drunk, which we’re allowed to like enough to enjoy his antics.
This time around, Arthur is a reckless, wasteful billionaire for the new millennium. It’s not so much that he’s simply drunk all the time, and doesn’t want to work. No, this one’s more of a front-page embarrassment, providing all the shots of wild, indecent partying, and Batmobile crashes the paparazzi care to take.
With the good name, and investor billions, of his family’s company at stake, his mother decides that he’s going to marry Susan Johnson, who looks brilliant on paper, and will be able to run the company. As we know, it doesn’t matter that Arthur doesn’t love her, or that she’s a special brand of lunatic who doesn’t think her father’s millions are enough. But, Arthur either goes along with it, or gets cut off from everything.
The real snag is the fake tour host Arthur meets at Grand Central Station, Naomi (Greta Gerwig). Not only cute as a button, she is everything Arthur’s world isn’t. He quickly falls for her, and thus the plot we already know develops.
We’re continually bombarded by remakes these days, but this one, tricky as it is, stands alongside some of the best such efforts. It doesn’t quite have the magic many found in the original, but it doesn’t really aim for it either. A fun update with a lot of laughs, this is a remake with at least some point behind it. It’s a new world telling of the story, and one that is thoroughly entertaining, with much of the heart of the original brought forward as something new audiences can relate to better.
Russell Brand and Helen Mirren (as the new Hobson) weave their own spin on the relationship, but one that does justice to the original, and that’s no small chore. In fact, one of the keys to the original was that you could feel the fun in making it coming through the screen, and there’s a decent measure of that working for this one as well. It may not get everything right, but it’s a lot of fun, and just overcoming the obstacles here is a serious win.
DVD Release Features
This is a release that is seriously lacking in the special features department, even on the Blu-Ray, but it is one of those very rare cases where I would advise viewers to take them in before watching the film, assuming they haven’t seen the film already. I can hardly imagine other circumstances in which I would make such a recommendation, but in this case it can easily make the film even better. This is because of the featurette Arthur Unsupervised, which showcases the fact that quite a bit of the film is actually improvised. Though the scenes are clearly laid out, in the featurette you will see several versions of the same scene, with the actors throwing out wildly different versions of not only their lines, but their actions.
Some of these are actually better than what ended up in the final cut, but whether they are better or worse, it puts an interesting new perspective on viewing the film. It’s funny, and a nice addition, but more importantly, it’s a special feature with a real purpose.
You also get some additional scenes, and a gag reel, unless you have the standard edition, which includes only the additional scenes. I’m generally not one to get my feathers ruffled over the differing features on Blu-Ray vs. Standard DVD, but when there are so few either way, it’s a bit irritating that they couldn’t all be included for both versions.