It´s possible that Hollywood, feeling guilty for what it unleashes on the world, occasionally looks for ways to make amends. This is the most generous explanation for remaking 1981’s Arthur.
The original film starred Dudley Moore (who seemed to be on the rebound after 10) and Liza Minnelli (who is, in general, perpetually on the rebound). It was an unremarkable 97 minutes of booze product placement and bright colors, with Moore drunkenly slurring with his British accent. Hollywood should have left it to its final resting place: The “Watch Instantly” tab on Netflix.
But it looks like the guilt was too overwhelming. The following is what happened.
In what must have been considerable stretch of his acting prowess, Russell Brand took on the role of Arthur Bach, an alcoholic British man-whore with an overabundance of attention and money. Arthur is born into his wealth — $950 million of it — and spends it frivolously on Batmobiles and Abraham Lincoln’s old clothing. He lives in the top of a tower in a lush suite and has a hovering magnetic bed, which he has lots of women stay in. He goes through life perpetually sloshed, cared for by Hobson, his stoic and sarcastic British nanny (do they come in any other variety?), played by Helen Mirren.
All this partying and family-humiliating behavior starts to really wear on Arthur’s mother. She decides to give him an ultimatum: Marry the strong, intelligent Susan (played by Jennifer Garner) who will show him how to live right (feminism, is that you?) or lose the entire family fortune.
Arthur hesitantly agrees to marry Susan for the money, but it turns out she’s a psychotic gold-digging bitch, as all driven women are. (Ha, ha! Psych, feminism!) Then he meets Naomi, a sweet hipster chick (played by Greta Gerwig) and falls in love. He wins her over with grand gestures and his vapid lifestyle.
(Is feminism a thing, or was it all just a dream?) Then he faces the timeless money-versus-happiness ultimatum. You know the rest.
The entire movie consists of everything you’ve seen before — except maybe the magnetic bed — especially if you’ve seen the original, as a large part of the dialogue, music and scenery is lifted right from the 1981 version and plopped in the new one. Although entirely believable as a drunk, Brand is impossible to take seriously as a romantic interest. On the audience-interest meter, he’s flatlining.
All said and done, this movie is technically an improvement on the original – Brand isn’t as obnoxious as Moore, there’s more plot and character development, excessive drinking is acknowledged as, you know, bad, and the magical Helen Mirren is in it.
But, man. From now on, Hollywood, let’s go ahead and treat any and all things in the “Watch Instantly” section like remains in a sacred burial ground. They don’t hold the powers to relieve you of your past indiscretions and will only bring curses and suffering. Please do not touch them again.