Doug & the Movies: 'Arthur'

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I try not to be that curmudgeon who immediately assumes that a remake just won't be as good as the original. I try to remember that new generations of moviegoers have most likely never seen the first effort and often, even if they have, it might feel dated. I've found that there can be a fresh, new take in a quality remake. That's not the case with "Arthur."

Scene by scene, character by character this "Arthur" falls short --substantially. Russell Brand steps into the shoes of Dudley Moore, delivering not only a perpetually inebriated playboy, but Brand conjures up a character that borders on mentally diminished. The childlike characteristics of the original Arthur have been magnified to the point of stupidity.

The last third (of the movie) toned down a bit and actually developed some heart. But still, it wasn't enough to salvage "Arthur."

Greta Gerwig takes on the challenge of playing Arthur's love interest, and following Liza Minnelli is no easy task. While not the weakest link in the film, Gerwig lacks the sparkle and edge that made Minnelli's performance shine.

And then there's Jennifer Garner. Normally relegated to doe-eyed, sweet, sympathetic portrayals, it was fun to see her with some grit and even nastiness as the woman determined to marry our pathetic hero for power and money.

But the best performance comes from Helen Mirren as Hobson, Arthur's nanny and surrogate parent. Not as brilliant as John Gielgud, Mirren has the distinct disadvantage of playing off Brand and Gerwig rather than Moore and Minnelli.

Another tendency of an ill-fated remake is to take story lines and sight gags that worked in the first movie too far. In this film, one example is having Arthur screaming around New York in the Bat Mobile -- really? It seems he has a collection of "movie cars" that all the cops in the Big Apple are familiar with and on the watch for.

Just when I was about to totally write this off, the last third toned down a bit and actually developed some heart. But still, it wasn't enough to salvage "Arthur."

Just 2 stars for "Arthur" and it's rated PG-13.

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Doug Wright


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