(No longer in theaters)
Chris Bender, Russell Brand, Larry Brezner
Apr 8, 2011
In Arthur, the spectacularly grating remake of Steve Gordon’s 1981 P. G. Wodehouse simulation (this time, Peter Baynham miswrote, Jason Winer misdirected), Russell Brand gives a career-killing performance. In the grisly opening, his drunken heir dons a Batman suit, forces Luis Guzmán (as his luckless chauffeur) into Burt Ward shorts, and leaps into his Batmobile for a joyride through Manhattan. Brand’s voice is a falsetto bray, his elongated teeth flat-out scary. After an ineptly staged chase, the Batmobile ends up under the Wall Street bull statue, its testicles dangling over Brand’s face. “Drunk again, Arthur,” says a cop—a line that worked better in the original, when Arthur was behind the wheel. (Back then, DWIs could be passed off as high jinks.) The desperate editing, the falsetto, the neutered gag—those bull balls read like Brand’s symbolic castration.
This Arthur has mommy rather than daddy issues. His Jeeves, played in ’81 by the minimalist master John Gielgud, is now a frowning Helen Mirren, who gazes on Brand with a disgust I found too credible to be funny. Jennifer Garner—so charming in 13 Going on 30—abases herself as Arthur’s brittle, driven fiancée, while Greta Gerwig has her distinctive blurty rhythms metronomically cropped. When banter this bad is played this fast, it’s like souls writhing helplessly in limbo.
God, I miss Dudley Moore. He was Arthur, the cherub who smuggled tall beauties into his dressing room, who could never keep up with his satanic father figure Peter Cook as either wit or alcoholic and signaled as much with his sad eyes. Better Dudley, Liza, and the miserable Arthur 2: On the Rocks than this monstrosity.