You will be able to predict how much you will enjoy this film based on your opinion of its lead actor, for Arthur could just as easily have been titled Russell Brand in New York.
Arthur is a retelling of the 1981 classic comedy film starring Dudley Moore, here slightly rewritten for our cash-strapped times. In overcoming the problem of recasting the great John Gielgud, the character is converted from butler to nanny and Helen Mirren inhabits the supporting role in what proves to be one of the smartest decisions of the film. Arthur is a spoiled child in an adult’s body, an eccentric bachelor looked after by his nanny and content to live off his mother’s millions until his antics start hurting their company’s public image. She demands he marries social climber Susan (Jennifer Garner) to restore respectability. Unfortunately. he has started to fall for simple girl Naomi (Greta Gerwig), a relationship which, if continued, promises to shut him out of his inheritance completely.
If this sounds boringly predictable, it’s because it is. The story is as lame as it is tame; it never ceases to amaze how many rom-coms seem happy to treat alcoholism as a fun quirk devoid of negative consequences. The film plays out almost exactly as expected, with no sense of growth or development of the one-dimensional caricatures the actors are playing, but then that isn’t the reason anyone would go to see a film like this.
Russell Brand towers over the film, over-acting his way happily through every scene. He’s comfortable in front of the camera, and is given enough funny lines to make it enjoyable. The real star is Helen Mirren though, largely playing as the straight character but with plenty of dry wit to steal all the scenes she’s in. When she’s off-screen, the film suffers a lot for it, evidenced in a final act that is very dependent on Naomi and Arthur’s relationship and suffers from a distinct lack of chemistry between the two.
Arthur is nothing more than yet another forgettable romantic comedy. The jokes help to sustain it through most of the runtime, but when the romance takes over it sinks deeply into mediocrity.