Too Drunk To Grow Up

By Krystle Wong

It’s hard to see Russell Brand as a character other than himself: Mr. Katy Perry is a professional dandy — more known for his antics and cameos than acting, so casting him as the titular character of the remake of 1981’s “Arthur” is a curious prospect. In the original, Dudley Moore played the affable drunk with convincing zeal. Could Brand do the same?

But forget what the previous generation is going to think. Most of us don’t know Moore’s character anyway. Brand’s Arthur Bach is an irrepressibly charming alcoholic, a man-child drunk on fun and his lifelong fortune. In other words, “Arthur” is a one-man show, and armed with his oafish British humor, Brand gives the character a delightful reboot.

Arthur is sandwiched between the women in his life. There is Nanny Hobson (Helen Mirren), a tiny, steely woman who picks up after his excesses (and there are plenty); mother Vivienne (Geraldine James), a tightwad corporate empress who sponsors his debauchery; and fiancée Susan (Jennifer Garner), a frightening exec with only one rung left to climb before she is cemented firmly in social elitism.

The film begins with Arthur’s antics wearing out his mother, who forces an ultimatum on him: Marry Susan or give up his inheritance. Arthur initially thinks he can do it, until he falls in love with kindred spirit Naomi (Greta Gerwig). The premise is a golden oldie: lifelong wealth or lifelong love? Arthur waits until the wedding to decide, but as all rom-coms go, the ending is no surprise.

“Arthur”’s best moments are its dialogue. Wit is a precious commodity, so “Arthur”’s unexpected twists of absurd humor are a welcome surprise. After the first few lines, you realize the comedy is no accident — the flick is a non-stop romp from beginning to end.

Though director Jason Winer (“Modern Family”) barely reworks anything from the original, the pithy dialogue brings out the best in the high-chested, springy-stepped Brand. The wit wears particularly well on Nanny Hobson, who snaps you into peals of laughter with unexpected beats of frankness. “How is the tea?” asks doe-eyed Naomi after a fuzzy, heartfelt conversation, wanting to restore some propriety. “Like sewage,” replies Hobson. Even after a life-changing confession, her candor is not spared.

Not everything in “Arthur” is lovable (Garner prancing around meowing guilelessly like a damaged whore), but the many charming moments make it difficult not to enjoy. (B-)

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