Film and TV

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:

Title: Arthur

This Isn't About The Guy Who Pulled Excalibur From The Stone, Is It? Worse, it's a remake of the 1981 Dudley Moore comedy.

Did They Keep That Horrible Christopher Cross Song I'll not have the legacy of Austin, TX's greatest living musician besmirched, damn your eyes.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Two-and-a-half nail guns out of five.

Tagline: "No Work. All Play."

Better Tagline: "Shit, I'd Marry Jennifer Garner For $950 Million."

Brief Plot Synopsis: A drunken young millionaire is given an ultimatum: enter into an arranged marriage or lose his fortune. His dilemma is further complicated when he falls for a working class girl from Queens.

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Arthur he does as he pleases. All of his life, his master's toys. But deep in his heart, he's just, he's just a boy. Living his life one day at a time, and showing himself a really good time. Laughing about the way they want him to be.

"Critical" Analysis:It comes down to this: how much Russell Brand can you stomach?

I maintain his keening man-child shtick is okay in small doses, as in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but way too damn much in longer stretches, like his stand-up shows or Get Him to the Greek, the modest success of which must have convinced Warner Bros. to bank on giving the guy sole lead for their Arthur remake.

Much as it pains me to say this, surely there was some other, less beloved film, the studio could have strip-mined for Brand. Let the guy get his feet wet with a new version of Krull or a movie adaptation of Mama's Family; something already crappy that wouldn't leave audiences and especially critics sharpening their blogs and Twitter accounts.

Make no mistake, people are going to hate Brand in this. And that's because writer Jason Winer and writer Peter Baynham have taken Arthur Bach and, instead of updating the character for the 21st century, have attempted to turn him into Sam, Johnny Depp's character from Benny & Joon. As played by Dudley Moore in the original, Arthur was immature but not infantile. Brand's take turns the character into a emotionally and developmentally stunted Peter Pan. He dresses like Batman, has a hovering magnetic bed, and manufactures custom Pez dispeners to impress his date, Naomi (a befuddled Greta Gerwig).

And he drinks. This being 2011, it's no longer acceptable in a PG-13 movie to show drunk people actually enjoying themselves without horrible consequences, so our Arthur eventually ends up in AA ("drunks =/= funny" was also cited as a reason for the failure of Arthur 2: On the Rocks). And today's Hollywood still walks a tenuously sleazy line between hypersentimental moralizing and avaricious marketing (I'd have bought a damn bottle of Maker's Mark myself if any liquor stores were open after the screening).

All the same, I can't fault Brand. He's obviously trying his damndest to be endearing, and it isn't entirely his fault he's not right for the part (I can hear the producers now, "Find me a British comedy, not Ricky Gervais!"). And while Brand may not be my particular cup of tea, he presents an occasionally amusing counterpoint to the glut of bro-medies on the market these days.

Since I'm physically incapable of hating anything Helen Mirren is in, I'll just say the character of Hobson - while amusing and ably played - left me a bit cold. John Gielgud was able to elicit laughs because a proper British gentleman uttering lines like "Would you like me to wash your prick for you, you little shit?" were, at the time, quite shocking. Mirren's version has too much of the geezer about her, so similar bon mots lose a bit of their gusto.

I almost felt bad for Jennifer Garner as Susan the fiancee, but she's been in worse (Catch and Release, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past>, marriage to Ben Affleck). And Nick Nolte (as Susan's father), wow.

See It/Rent It/Skip It: Skip it. Unless you missed Elektra and are really jonesing to see Jennifer Garner in bondage wear.

Arthur is in theaters today. Rather than spend your money at the theater, how about a bottle of smooth, sophisticated Maker's Mark?

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar